The Supreme Court Just Halted a Ruling that Deemed North Carolina’s Congressional Map Unconstitutional

The stay is a big blow to Democrats hoping to retake the House of Representatives.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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On Thursday night, the Supreme Court halted a lower court ruling that ordered North Carolina officials to revise its map of the state’s congressional districts. The decision comes 10 days after a three-judge panel found that Republican lawmakers in the state had erred in drawing the state’s congressional districts to limit Democrats’ electoral power in favor of Republicans’, violating the constitution. 

As Mother Jones‘ Pema Levy pointed out at the time of the lower court ruling, the decision marked the first time a federal district court had ended a congressional map for partisan gerrymandering:

The nearly 200-page opinion states that the map “violates the Equal Protection Clause because it reflects a successful, and unjustified, effort by the General Assembly to subordinate the interests of non-Republican voters and entrench Republican Representatives in power.” It also argues that the map violates the First Amendment by burdening free speech and free association rights of voters who do not support Republicans. Finally, the court found that the map violates the Constitution’s “grant of authority to ‘the People’ to elect their Representatives”—in other words, rather than choose their representatives, their representatives chose their voters.   

The state is now blocked from moving forward with the 2018 congressional elections using the current map, and and the court gave the legislature two weeks to create a remedial plan. Should the legislature fail to create a plan that the court deems constitutional in that time period, the court says it’s prepared to put in place a map drawn by someone it appoints. 

Now North Carolina lawmakers are at least temporarily off the hook for creating a new map; the Supreme Court decision means that the state’s congressional districts will likely remain the same through the 2018 midterms, blocking a potential outlet for Democrats in their efforts to retake the US House of Representatives. The high court is currently wrestling with two other cases in Wisconsin and Maryland over whether partisan gerrymandering can be unconstitutional. The court’s decisions will likely impact North Carolina as well. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the Supreme Court’s order. 

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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