The Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily blocked a trial court’s order requiring North Carolina lawmakers to produce a revised congressional voting map, making it likely that the midterm elections this year will be conducted using districts favorable to Republican candidates. The trial court had found that Republican legislators in the state had violated the Constitution by drawing congressional voting districts to hurt the electoral chances of Democratic candidates. The Supreme Court’s move was expected and not particularly telling. The court, which is considering two other major tests of partisan gerrymandering, has granted stays in similar settings. Its decisions in the pending cases, from Wisconsin and Maryland, are likely to effectively decide the North Carolina case, too. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor noted dissents from Thursday’s order, which was brief and unsigned.
The previous North Carolina decision, issued by a three-judge panel last week, was the first from a federal court to strike down a congressional map as a partisan gerrymander. Republican state lawmakers, the court said, had violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection by drawing voting districts to their party’s advantage.
The judges noted that the legislator responsible for drawing the map had not disguised his intentions. “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,” said the legislator, Representative David Lewis, a Republican. “So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.”
The plan worked. In 2016, the court said, Republican congressional candidates won 53 percent of the statewide vote. But they won in 10 of the 13 congressional districts, or 77 percent of them.