Not sure if this is a good thing or not.
A panel of state-court judges struck down North Carolina’s legislative districts Tuesday, ruling that Republicans improperly gerrymandered state voting lines to provide an enduring political majority for the GOP.
The case highlights the new legal playbook for critics of gerrymandering after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June that federal judges have no authority to place limits on the drawing of voting maps for partisan gain. That decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, left open the ability of state courts to rule on partisan gerrymanders under state constitutions, and that was the basis for Tuesday’s decision.
A three-judge Superior Court panel based in Wake County found that a Republican legislative majority in 2017 drew state district lines with “surgical precision” to dilute the strength of Democratic voters and perpetuate GOP power.
“The effect of these carefully crafted partisan maps is that, in all but the most unusual election scenarios, the Republican party will control a majority of both chambers of the General Assembly,” the court wrote.
The decision relied heavily on a provision of the North Carolina Constitution that guarantees free elections. That provision provides “that all elections must be conducted freely and honestly to ascertain, fairly and truthfully, the will of the people,” the court said.
Some 30 states have a constitutional requirement for free elections, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court cited its own free-elections clause last year when it invalidated the state’s congressional map as a Republican gerrymander. The court imposed a new
map that improved Democrats’ electoral prospects.
The North Carolina panel on Tuesday gave the Republican majority two weeks to draw a new map for the 2020 election and barred the Legislature from relying on partisan considerations and election- results data.
State Senate Leader Phil Berger, a Republican, criticized the ruling and accused Democrats of mounting a campaign to use state courts to “game the redistricting process.” Nevertheless, he said Republicans wouldn’t appeal and instead would comply “and move forward with adoption of a nonpartisan map.”
“Nearly a decade of relentless litigation has strained the legitimacy of this state’s institutions, and the relationship between its leaders, to the breaking point,” Mr. Berger said. “It’s time to move on.”
Advocacy group Common Cause, one of the plaintiffs that challenged the Republican map, called the ruling a historic victory that “joins a growing list of victories in the fight to end gerrymandering nationwide.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling from June involved cases from North Carolina and from Maryland, where Democrats had drawn the map. The decision split the court along ideological lines, with the court’s conservative majority concluding that federal courts had no constitutional authority to reallocate political power between the two major political parties and no legal standards for deciding how much partisanship is too much in redistricting.
—Jess Bravin contributed to this article