Three judges step in where the Supreme Court refuses
Published September 5, 2019
Three state judges on a North Carolina trial court just did what a majority on the United States Supreme Court said was impossibleonly a few months ago — apply well-established legal standards to strike down some of the most egregious partisan gerrymanders in the country.
The state court judges’ 357-page ruling applies to the North Carolina state legislature, the General Assembly, which now has two weeks to come up with new, fairer maps for state legislative districts. It also sends a broader message to the justices in Washington, and to state judges everywhere: See? Protecting democracy from self-interested, power-hungry politicians isn’t so hard after all.
The lawsuit decided on Tuesday was the latest in a long line of litigation against North Carolina’s legislative maps, which the state’s Republican lawmakers have been unilaterally hacking up for the last eight years, then stitching back together to resemble not the state as it is (a hotly contested battleground) but as they would like it to be (a towering, impregnable Republican fortress).
The existing maps were so effective that they helped entrench Republican majorities even when Democrats won more votes statewide. In 2018, Republican candidates for North Carolina’s House of Representatives won less than 50 percent of the two-party statewide vote, but walked away with 65 seats to the Democrats’ 55. Republican candidates for the State Senate also won a minority of the popular vote, and still took 29 of 50 seats.