The General Assembly of North Carolina has spent almost $5.6 million defending itself against lawsuits that attack the legislature’s recent redistricting plans for North Carolina. Several lawsuits have been filed against the General Assembly’s congressional redistricting efforts. The official amount is expected to rise as lawsuits from 2011 to present are being filed.
The lawsuits being filed against the General Assembly addresses the recently revised election districts that were developed under court order this summer to fix racial disparities statewide. The lawsuits were drafted against the General Assembly in hopes that the recently drawn election districts be rescinded and redrawn again. The primary claim of the lawsuit is that the Republican state legislators used partisan tactics to redrawn North Carolina in an unconstitutional way that benefited Republican candidates to win 10 of the 13 state seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
On Jan. 9, a three-judge federal panel struck down and rejected the map drawn by the General Assembly and ordered North Carolina’s congressional map to be redrawn, condemning the efforts as unconstitutional.
The judges further said that the Republicans who drew the map were seeking a political advantage in future elections. This ruling was the first time a federal court blocked a congressional map due to partisan gerrymandering. The judges made this ruling based on a violation of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal treatment under the law. Judge James A Wynn Jr. said the Republicans in North Carolina’s Legislature had been “motivated by invidious partisan intent” as they carried out the court order of redrawing the states in 2016.
Democrats and the protesting groups who brought forth the lawsuit against the General Assembly applauded the ruling of this case. North Carolina’s Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said in a statement that “today’s ruling is a major victory for North Carolina and people across the state whose voices were silenced by Republicans’ unconstitutional attempts to rig the system to their partisan advantage.”
This court ruling could lead to further implications in future partisan gerrymandering cases as well. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on Wisconsin’s appeal of a lower court ruling later this year. The lawsuit indicates that state Republicans created unconstitutional state legislative districts to hobble democrats in legislative races.
The judges gave the state of North Carolina about three weeks to file a new plan of the redrawn districts with the court in hopes it will be ready before the 2018 midterms.