North Carolina Court Halts Use of Current Congressional Map for 2020

October 29, 2019by Simone Pathé
N.C. Senate President pro tem Phil Berger (Rep.), left front, and Sen. Harry Brown (Rep.), right front, and other senators listen as HB 142 is debated on the Senate floor in the General Assembly March 30, 2017, in Raleigh, N.C. (Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS)

WASHINGTON — A three-judge panel in North Carolina has ordered the state not to use the current congressional districts for the 2020 elections while the lawsuit against them proceeds.

The preliminary injunction could delay the state’s March congressional primaries, setting up a potentially messy primary season in a politically competitive state up and down the ballot in 2020.

The state court heard arguments that the map crafted by the Republican-led legislature was an illegal partisan gerrymander last Thursday, when the State Board of Elections endorsed the idea of an injunction.

North Carolina’s congressional delegation includes 10 Republicans and three Democrats. Republicans narrowly held onto the 9th District in a hotly contested special election last month.

GOP Rep. George Holding, who defeated former Rep. Renee Ellmers when they were drawn into the same district in 2016, told the Raleigh News & Observer earlier this month that he hasn’t been raising much money locally because he expects the state will be forced to draw new lines.

A federal court had ruled that the state racially gerrymandered its congressional districts after the 2010 census. In response, the legislature drew new maps for the 2016 congressional primaries that retained the GOP’s partisan advantage in the House delegation.

Federal courts struck it down as a partisan gerrymander, but the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that federal courts do not have jurisdiction over political gerrymandering. That ruling left open the option of challenges under state constitutions, which were pursued by opponents of the North Carolina map.

A bipartisan panel of state judges has already struck down the state’s legislative maps as unconstitutional.

The three-judge panel on Monday said that it reserves the right to move the date of all of the state’s 2020 primaries, not just the congressional primaries.

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