U.S. Fourth Circuit - The FindLaw 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

North Carolina Partisan Gerrymandering Ruled Unconstitutional

Despite the fact that a ruling on similar sets of facts is expected in the coming months from SCOTUS, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that North Carolina's congressional voting map had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the state's Republican lawmakers. In issuing the ruling in the two consolidated cases, Common Cause v. Rucho and League of Women Voters v. Rucho, the court gave the state legislature a few weeks to fix it, lest the court step in to do so.

The appellate court found, in a nearly 200 page decision, that there was an attempt to "subordinate the interests of non-Republican voters and entrench Republican domination" via the gerrymandering. Additionally, the opinion notes that the state's Republicans were "motivated by invidious partisan intent" when redrawing the state's congressional map. Clearly, the court used some strong words to suggest that partisan gerrymandering can quickly cross lines.

How Appealing Could be Appealing

It is widely expected that the GOP proponents of the gerrymandered map will appeal the circuit court's ruling to the High Court. This is expected because of the pair of cases dealing with partisan gerrymandering are already on the SCOTUS docket, and this case could allow the Court to further distinguish when partisan gerrymandering cuts constitutional muster. To that end, it would seem that requesting a stay of enforcement until at least SCOTUS rules on Gil, or Benisek, would be the prudent strategic move.

Curiously though, this case may not be a good candidate for appeal if the Republican lawmakers are looking to make good case law. One notable fact that made the Fourth Circuit panel's job much easier in this case is that Republican lawmakers admitted in court that the map was redrawn in order to secure "partisan political advantage."

History of Bad -mandering

Unfortunately for the state, the courts cannot simply rule that the prior congressional map should be used. This is due to the fact that the prior map was ruled unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering. The map that was just ruled unconstitutional due to partisan gerrymandering was supposed to fix the map ruled unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering.

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