By Jim Ellis
Sept. 3, 2018 — Last week, the same three-judge panel that previously ruled the North Carolina congressional boundaries as unconstitutional did so again, well after the lines were re-drawn in 2016 to reflect one of their previous decisions.
Predictably, the two Democratic judges ruled to overturn the legislature’s map once again, with the lone Republican dissenting. This time, the ruling concerns political gerrymandering, after the panel originally tossed the map because of what they cited as “racial gerrymandering.” The North Carolina delegation has split 10R-3D since the original 2011 map was created after the 2010 census.
The latest action, coming at a time when the US Supreme Court has only eight members because Judge Brett Kavanaugh has not yet been confirmed to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, could stand if the high court fails to halt or invalidate the ruling.
If the decision remains, it becomes very unclear as to how the election would proceed. If the lines are suddenly unconstitutional, a new map would have to be set in its place. At this point, it is probable that the court would usurp the state legislature’s constitutional power and force its own map into law.
What happens to the candidates who won the May primaries, or even lost, as in the case of Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte), remains in flux. It is likely many lawsuits would be filed, likely from candidates who won primaries but were denied the chance of running in the subsequent general election, to voters who would be disenfranchised after voting for a candidate who, after being nominated, no longer appears on the ballot because the particular voter has been arbitrarily shifted to another district, and every argument in between.