In a blow to voting rights advocates and partisan gerrymandering foes, the federal district court handling the longstanding litigation over North Carolina’s congressional districts upheld the state's new congressional map ahead of the June 7 primary. In February the court struck down the original 2011 Republican map that over unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. However, the court gave the Republican-dominated legislature a chance to pass a remedy map, which they did as shown above. The court subsequently ruled that the plaintiffs’ arguments that the new districts constituted unconstitutional racial and partisan gerrymanders were vague and insufficient under existing precedent.
This new map simply puts lipstick on the proverbial pig and does nothing to alter the racial or partisan balance of North Carolina’s congressional delegation. Republicans explicitly aimed to maintain their grotesque 10-to-3 advantage despite North Carolina being a key swing state, with one legislator openly expressing his party’s outright contempt for electoral democracy:
“I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,” he said. “So I drew this map in a way to help foster what I think is better for the country.”
As we have demonstrated, North Carolina easily could have drawn another congressional district in the Piedmont Triad that would have been likely to elect black voters’ candidate of choice. Instead the legislature merely lowered the proportion of black voters in the existing two heavily-black districts without ensuring that such changes would allow black voters to form a substantial-enough bloc in any of the other districts. Furthermore, a non-partisan North Carolina congressional map would likely elect five to eight Democrats, which is much more in line with this swing state’s politics than a mere three out of 13.
The district court did not foreclose the possibility of future challenges to this new map, and it is quite likely that the plaintiffs will appeal the three-judge panel’s decision directly to the Supreme Court. Cases like this show just how important it is that Democrats win the 2016 presidential election and take back the Senate so that they can confirm a fifth Supreme Court justice who will support voting rights and oppose partisan gerrymandering without the need for relying on the skeptical Justice Anthony Kennedy.