Federal judges have yet again struck down North Carolina’s congressional districts as an unconstitutional gerrymander, dealing Republicans a blow and throwing the state’s maps into chaos just months before a pivotal midterm election. A three-judge panel, including one circuit-court judge and two district-court judges, ruled Tuesday evening that the Old North State’s redistricting plan relied too heavily on partisan affiliation in drawing constituencies, violating citizens’ rights under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and Article I of the Constitution. The decision is the first time a federal court has ever struck down a redistricting plan as a partisan gerrymander. The final word, however, will likely come from the Supreme Court, which is considering two partisan-gerrymandering cases.
The plan worked extremely well. In 2012, Republicans won just 49 percent of the statewide vote but snagged nine of 13 House seats. Two years later, with 54 percent of the vote, they won 10 of 13 seats. But a lawsuit against that plan argued that the Republican maps had actually been intended to dilute black votes, and a federal court struck the plan down in 2016. (The Supreme Court affirmed that decision last spring.)