A panel of North Carolina judges upheld the state’s new congressional map on Tuesday, rejecting claims by Democratic voters and advocacy groups that the redrawn district lines illegally favor Republicans.
The decision, which will be appealed, could have an outsized impact on the 2022 midterm elections in November, when control of the tightly divided US Congress will be at stake.
The lawsuit, backed by Democrats and civil rights groups, had claimed the new map guarantees Republicans will win a majority of the state’s 14 congressional districts, even in elections with more voters. Democrats vote.
In a trial last week, plaintiffs’ experts said the map represented an extreme outlier, compared to thousands of computer-generated alternatives.
In a 258-page decision, however, the three-judge panel agreed with Republican lawmakers that the courts cannot meddle in what is, at its heart, a purely political matter, even if they are not agree with the result.
“Despite our disdain at having to deal with issues that could lead to results inconsistent with democratic principles and ridicule our state, this Court must remember that these maps are the result of a democratic process,” they wrote. .
The justices also found that the state constitution does not prohibit lawmakers from taking partisan advantage of redistricting.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys immediately said they would appeal the ruling, calling it “disappointing” but expressing confidence that the North Carolina Supreme Court will eventually throw out the card.
The state’s highest court, which has a 4-3 Democratic majority, has already delayed the primary election from March to May to allow time for the trial to continue.
Federal law requires states to draw new lines in Congress every 10 years to account for population changes, after the US Census completes its once-a-decade count. In most states, legislators control the process, leading to the practice of gerrymandering, in which one party designs political maps for its own benefit.
The new map would give Republicans 10 or 11 statewide seats, analysts say, even though the state is considered a permanent battleground in national elections. Republicans currently control eight of the state’s 13 districts; North Carolina gains a 14th district thanks to a rapidly growing population.
The case is among many ongoing lawsuits challenging Congressional maps in at least half a dozen states, including Texas, Ohio and Georgia, according to New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. , which tracks redistricting disputes.
Republicans only need to flip a handful of seats in the Nov. 8 election to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Democrats hold a 221-212 advantage, including vacancies. .