A panel of three judges in North Carolina threw out the state’s legislative district maps on Tuesday, ruling that the maps were such an extreme partisan gerrymander that they violated the state constitution, NBC News reports.
Lawmakers' partisan intent in drawing the maps, the "surgical precision" with which they were executed, and the distinct advantage the maps gave to Republicans violated the state’s constitutional protections of free elections, free speech and assembly, and equal protection under the law, the judges wrote in a 357-page ruling that reads as a stinging condemnation of partisan gerrymandering.
"The 2017 Enacted Maps, as drawn, do not permit voters to freely choose their representative, but rather representatives are choosing voters based upon sophisticated partisan sorting," the judges wrote. "It is not the free will of the People that is ascertained through extreme partisan gerrymandering. Rather, it is the carefully crafted will of the map drawer that predominates."
The legislature must immediately start drawing new maps, the court said, demanding that they be drawn based on criteria like population, contiguity, and county lines. They must be drawn without "partisan considerations and election results data," the judges wrote, and done so in plain view, a pointed departure from the closed-door processes the ruling eschews.