In a setback in the fight against Republican gerrymandering in North Carolina, a state court panel has unanimously refused to block the congressional map (shown here) that Republicans passed last month after the same 2-1 Democratic panel had blocked their previous gerrymander from being used for 2020.
Ruling that there was insufficient time remaining to adjudicate the facts of the plaintiffs’ challenge to the new map, the court did not issue a finding on whether it was constitutional or not, but the judges allowed the GOP’s new map to enter into effect for the March 2020 primary. Consequently, the court opened the candidate filing period that it had previously frozen.
Daily Kos Elections has calculated the 2004-2018 statewide election results and a handful of demographic statistics for the GOP’s new districts, and they indicate that the new map is likely to elect an 8-5 Republican majority, barring a Democratic wave even larger than 2018. While that’s a much fairer split than the previous map’s 10-3 Republican advantage, it likely precludes Democrats from winning a majority of seats even in years in which they’re winning more votes, like 2018.
The plaintiffs could still appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court, and although its 6-1 Democratic majority is no guarantee of success, there could still be hope for a more favorable outcome based on what happened in 2016: A federal court struck down the GOP’s original gerrymander in February of that year, and it was redrawn that month, with the primary being delayed until June. The state court in this most recent case cited the desire to avoid disrupting the March 2020 primary schedule, but officials could theoretically delay the primary if that ruling were overturned on appeal.