The Supreme Court on Monday punted the issue of partisan gerrymandering for a second time this month.
The court told a lower court to reconsider its decision to strike down Republican-drawn redistricting plan in light of its recent ruling in another partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina found that Republicans had redrawn its map to favor their party after their first maps were struck down by the court as racial gerrymanders.
Republican officials didn’t dispute they had drawn the maps with the intent to favor Republicans, but intent to give one party a leg up, they argued, isn’t enough to prove an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander occurred.
“A test that prohibited any intent to district for partisan advantage thus would be flatly inconsistent with the Framers’ decision to entrust districting to the legislature, because as long as redistricting is done by a legislature, it should not be very difficult to prove that the likely political consequences of the reapportionment were intended,” attorneys for Robert Rucho (R), who co-chairs the state’s Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting, argued in briefs.
The court blocked the maps in May.
Last week, the justices also sidestepped the issue of partisan gerrymandering, finding procedural grounds to rule against Democratic voters in Wisconsin and Republican voters in Maryland who challenged their state maps.
In the Wisconsin case, the court said Democrats lacked standing to challenge the state’s entire map and remanded the case back down to the lower court to give them an opportunity to prove how they were injured.
In the Maryland case, the justices affirmed a district court’s decision not to block Maryland from holding congressional elections under its 2011 map for the 6th Congressional District, which was drawn by Democrats. The court said the Republicans, who asked for the preliminary injunction in 2017, had waited too long to seek relief.
Updated at 10:52 a.m.