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Three federal judges ruled Tuesday that North Carolina's congressional district map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered because of excessive partisanship favoring Republican candidates.
In a 191-page opinion, the panel of judges rejected the map drawn by the Republican-controlled General Assembly that would divide the state into 13 districts, of which 10 are Republican. The ruling is the first federal court ruling to strike down a congressional map as representing a partisan gerrymander.
“Rather than seeking to advance any democratic or constitutional interest, the state legislator responsible for drawing the 2016 Plan said he drew the map to advantage Republican candidates because he 'think[s] electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,'” Circuit Court Judge James Wynn wrote in the ruling.
The judges have given lawmakers until Jan. 29 — approximately three weeks — to file a new map with the court so that it will be in place before the 2018 midterm elections. If a new map is not enacted, a special master will be appointed to draw replacement boundaries.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder applauded the judges' decision.
The court could not be more clear and the Republican legislature could not be more wrong. The solution is simple: be fair in drawing districts lines. https://t.co/zGSSoFHvXp
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) January 10, 2018
“Today's ruling was just the latest example of the courts telling state legislators in North Carolina that citizens should be able to pick their representatives, instead of politicians picking their voters,” Holder said in a statement released by the National Democratic Redistricting Foundation.
Republicans like Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, immediately criticized the ruling.
“It is incredibly disappointing activist Judge Jim Wynn is waging a personal, partisan war on North Carolina Republicans,” Woodhouse said in a tweet. He later added: “It is now very clear that Judge Wynn has decided that @ncgop should not be allowed to draw election districts under any circumstances under any set of rules. This is a hostile takeover of the #NCGA and legislative bodies across the U.S.”
— Dallas Woodhouse (@DallasWoodhouse) January 9, 2018
Republican leaders in the state seem to echo Woodhouse's criticism of the ruling and plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to reports from The Raleigh News & Observer.