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Judges Strike Down North Carolina Congressional Map Over Gerrymandering

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now to North Carolina, where a panel of federal judges has thrown out that state's congressional voting maps for being too partisan. Among those celebrating the ruling was Democratic Party activist Jake Quinn who brought one of the lawsuits.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAKE QUINN: It is the first time in history that a U.S. federal court has struck down any kind of federal districting based on partisan gerrymandering.

MARTIN: From member station WUNC, reporter Rusty Jacobs has more.

RUSTY JACOBS, BYLINE: A federal court had already found that two of North Carolina's congressional districts drawn in 2011 were illegally racially gerrymandered. But now in a majority ruling, a three-judge panel found Republican legislators drew heavily partisan maps designed to, quote, "dictate electoral outcomes." The judges said the invidious partisanship of the Republican-drawn maps ran contrary to the voters' constitutional right to elect their representatives. The court cited one GOP lawmaker's statement that he thought electing Republicans was better than electing Democrats so he, quote, "drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country."

While courts have found that gerrymandering on a racial basis is clearly unconstitutional, they had yet to rule definitively on whether partisanship alone could yield unconstitutional voting maps. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin involving state legislative districts. The judges in the North Carolina case have given Republican lawmakers until January 24 to offer replacement maps or yield to an appointed special master. The GOP legislators are likely to appeal and ask the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the ruling while the justices consider the Wisconsin case.

For NPR News, I'm Rusty Jacobs in Durham, N.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOE'S "TREMOLO AND DELAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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