A three-judge panel of the US District Court for the Middle District of California on Monday once again struck down [opinion, PDF] North Carolina’s congressional map after a finding that the state’s legislature improperly relied on political data to draw the map in such a way as to retain as many Republican seats as possible. The opinion also indicates that the districts may have to be redrawn before the upcoming midterm elections.
In writing for the court, Judge James Wynn indicated that North Carolina should not be permitted to use the map which has already been declared unconstitutional twice. To that end, Wynn stated:
We continue to lament that North Carolina voters now have been deprived of a constitutional congressional districting plan — and, therefore, constitutional representation in Congress — for six years and three election cycles. … To the extent allowing the General Assembly another opportunity to draw a remedial plan would further delay electing representatives under a constitutional districting plan, that delay weighs heavily against giving the General Assembly another such opportunity.
Also in light of the failures of the current plan, Wynn stated that the court was not certain the legislature should be afforded another opportunity to draw up another map. Accordingly, the court ordered the appointment of a “Special Master,” an independent individual with no improper relationship with the parties or the case, to aid the court in redrawing the voting districts in the event that the court finds the legislature should not be permitted to draw another map of its own.
The court granted both parties an opportunity to file briefs identifying three potential candidates for the position of Special Master or, alternatively, whether or not the parties agreed that any of the “thousands” of alternative districting plans already in the record of the matter would be suitable.
Republican members of the state legislature have already indicated [NYT report] that they would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.