The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a gerrymandered congressional district map in North Carolina which was supported by the state’s Republican Party, overturning a lower court’s ruling which had said the map was unconstitutional. The ruling was considered a major setback for North Carolina’s Democratic Party.
The lower court had ruled that the North Carolina congressional district boundaries were designed to assure lopsided victories for Republicans, and that this was a violation of Democratic voters’ constitutional rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court justices ordered that the highly publicized and controversial case be sent back to a federal three-judge panel of the lower court. The panel was ordered to determine if the plaintiffs in the case — a group of Democratic voters — have the required “standing to sue” in the case.
By sending the case back to the lower court, the Supreme Court stopped the implementation of the lower court’s order that a new congressional district map be drawn this year. Because the the Republican districts will now be in place for the 2018 congressional elections in November, this will help Republicans keep their House seats in the state, and possibly keep the GOP in control of Congress.
In January the lower court panel (located in Greensboro, North Carolina) had ruled unanimously that the Republican-drawn map of North Carolina’s 13 U.S. House of Representatives districts “violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law.”
Two of the three judges also ruled that it violated the U.S. Constitution by discriminating against voters based on their political beliefs.
Previously, on June 18, the Supreme Court had refused to rule on two other high-profile cases from Wisconsin and Maryland. By doing so, the Court indicated that they would not further restrict state legislatures from drawing electoral districts for partisan advantage.
People who want to reform the process of choosing congressional district boundaries wanted the Supreme Court to use the Wisconsin and Maryland cases to restrict partisan gerrymandering. In refusing to do so, Chief Justice John Roberts said that a comprehensive ruling on gerrymandering would come in a future case.
If the lower court in North Carolina decides that the plaintiffs have “standing” and are still entitled to sue then it is possible that the case will return to the Supreme Court for consideration.