Democrats sue over North Carolina's congressional maps

Democrats are headed back to court to challenge the validity of North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts, just weeks after the state’s highest court ruled that the Republican-controlled legislature unconstitutionally gerrymandered state-level maps.
 
A new lawsuit filed Friday on behalf of 14 North Carolina voters challenges Republican-drawn maps that first went into effect ahead of the 2016 elections, after a court threw out a previous set of maps that were drawn after the 2010 census.
 
The 2010 maps, the court found, improperly divided minority communities or concentrated them into certain districts to dilute their political power, a practice known as cracking and packing. When the legislature redrew congressional district lines in 2016, the lawsuit alleges they substituted past partisan behavior for the racial data they were no longer allowed to use.
 
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Stanton Jones, one of the lead attorneys suing over the district boundaries, called the new maps “the most extreme and brazen partisan gerrymander in American history.”
 
Those maps — both the 2010 version and the 2016 version — helped Republicans win 10 of the state’s 13 congressional districts.
 
“It’s time for this era of gerrymandering in North Carolina to come to an end,” said Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials We can't allow presidents and public opinion to further diminish the work of the press Democrats sue over North Carolina's congressional maps MORE, the former attorney general whose National Redistricting Foundation is funding the lawsuit. “In North Carolina — and in states around the country — we need to stop politicians from picking their voters and restore fairness in our electoral system.”
 
Republicans who drew the district lines scoffed at the latest Democratic lawsuit. State Senate President Phil Berger (R) said the suit showed that Democrats were only interested in fair maps when those maps stand to benefit them politically.
 
“Eric Holder’s sue ’til blue endgame is a Democratic legislative majority created by Democratic judges,” Berger said. “Anybody who doubts that Holder’s support for ‘fair maps’ is a phony front to help Democrats just needs to answer one question: How many blue states has Holder sued?”
 
The U.S. Supreme Court in June refused to strike down North Carolina’s maps as unconstitutional. In that case, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the five-vote majority that the high court could not get involved in what was an inherently partisan fight.
 
But this time, Democrats are suing over district lines in state court — an avenue that helped them overturn district boundaries in another heavily gerrymandered state, Pennsylvania, ahead of last year’s midterm elections.
 
Going through state courts helped Democrats win a challenge to North Carolina’s legislative district boundaries earlier this year. This month, a three-judge panel, including one Republican judge, ruled unanimously that the legislative district maps violated the state constitution’s guarantee of fair elections.
 
That panel of judges is currently considering whether new maps the legislature redrew pass their muster. 
 
If the new challenge to congressional districts proceeds through the courts, Democrats are much more confident of their chances at the North Carolina Supreme Court than they would be at the U.S. Supreme Court. The North Carolina court is made up of seven justices — only one of whom is a Republican. 
 
But time is short. Candidates running for U.S. House seats in North Carolina must file with the state by Dec. 2, only two months from now. The congressional primary is scheduled for March 3.
 
It is unclear whether the courts could work fast enough to implement new maps in time, or whether they could or would order a delay in elections if the current lines are deemed unconstitutional.