North Carolina court approves new legislative maps, enjoins current congressional maps

On October 28, 2019, a three-judge panel of North Carolina’s superior court approved new state legislative district maps. The remedial maps were adopted by the state legislature after the panel had struck down the existing district plan as an impermissible partisan gerrymander under the state constitution. The panel comprises Judges Paul C. Ridgeway, Joseph N. Crosswhite, and Alma L. Hinton.
On the same day, the same panel temporarily blocked the use of the state’s congressional district maps in the 2020 election cycle. This move came after the maps’ opponents filed a lawsuit alleging that the plan constituted a partisan gerrymander in violation of state law.  The panel did not issue a full decision on the merits, stating that “disruptions to the election process need not occur, nor may an expedited schedule for summary judgment or trial even be needed, should the General Assembly, on its own initiative, act immediately and with all due haste to enact new congressional districts.”
Eric Holder, former U.S. attorney general and chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said of the order, “For nearly a decade, Republicans have forced the people of North Carolina to vote in districts that were manipulated for their own partisan advantage. Now – finally – the era of Republican gerrymandering in the state is coming to an end.” State Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger (R) said, “With judges deciding behind closed doors how many members of Congress from each party is acceptable, judicial elections have become the most consequential in America.” It is not yet clear whether opponents of the court’s order will seek to appeal.
Political context: In 2020, North Carolina will hold elections for its 13 U.S. representatives, its 50 state senators, and its 120 state representatives. Ballotpedia has identified the North Carolina state House and Senate as battleground chambers in 2020. Republicans currently control both chambers. Democrats would need to gain five Senate seats and six House seats in order to win majorities in the two chambers. The primary election is slated for March 3, 2020, and the filing deadline for major party candidates is currently set for December 20, 2019.
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