A key Judicial Decision on Gerrymandering

This article is further to the article of Sunday 7th January on gerrymandering

What is Gerrymandering

On Tuesday a Federal Court ordered that North Carolina to redraw its 13 congressional districts. The court issued a 191 page opinion that the partisan nature of the congressional map was unconstitutional.

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North Carolina’s congressional districts have come under close scrutiny

The congressional map had been drawn up by the General Assembly (Congress) of North Carolina. In the Assembly, the Republicans have a majority in both houses. The Republicans have a 35-15 advantage in the North Carolina Senate and 75-45 in the North Carolina House of Representatives. Issues over the congressional districts have been rumbling on for months.

In February 2016, the US Court of Appeals ruled the 1st and 12th Districts were unconstitutional and in May 2017 a Supreme Court Case, Cooper vs Harris agreed with this decision.

The basis for the ruling that the map is unconstitutional is based on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The Equal Protection Clause aims to ensure that everyone is given equal protection under the law. The argument made is that individuals of different political persuasions are not given this in a gerrymandered district.

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Since leaving office President Obama has made a number of speeches criticising gerrymandering

The three judges on the case ruled that the congressional map has to be redrawn before the mid-term elections in November. It is likely that the Republicans will appeal and the case may end up in front of the Supreme Court. However, this is a very significant ruling. It is the first time a Federal Court has struck down congressional redistricting because of a concern about gerrymandering. Other gerrymandering cases are due to come in front of the courts in the near future, with Wisconsin being a key case that is due to come before the Supreme Court. It will be interesting to see if a clear judicial precedent has been set.

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