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N.C. GOP unconstitutionally gerrymandered state's voting districts, court rules

By Ray Downs
N.C. GOP unconstitutionally gerrymandered state's voting districts, court rules
Stickers are seen at a polling location during the Pennsylvania primary in Philadelphia on April 26, 2016. On Tuesday, a North Carolina court ruled that GOP lawmakers gerrymandered the state's voting districts. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 9 (UPI) -- A North Carolina federal court ruled Tuesday that a congressional map drawn by state Republicans was unconstitutional because it was intentionally gerrymandered

The three-judge said the North Carolina General Assembly must redraw the districts by Jan. 29. If the court finds that the new map is still too partisan, it will draw its own map.

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In writing the opinion, 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Wynn quoted Republican State Rep. David Lewis, the chairman of the redistricting committee, who was blatant about the purpose of redrawing the districts.

"Rather than seeking to advance any democratic or constitutional interest, the state legislator responsible for drawing the 2016 Plan said he drew the map to advantage Republican candidates because he 'think[s] electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,'" Wynn wrote.

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Wynn said state Republicans never disputed that the redistricting was done to help their party win elections.

"The Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly expressly directed the legislators and consultant responsible for drawing the 2016 Plan to rely on 'political data' -- past election results specifying whether, and to what extent, particular voting districts had favored Republican or Democratic candidates, and therefore were likely to do so in the future -- to draw a districting plan that would ensure Republican candidates would prevail in the vast majority of the state's congressional districts," Wynn wrote.

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Dallas Wodehouse, the executive director of the North Carolina GOP, blasted Wynn, an Obama appointee, on Twitter.

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"It is now very clear that Judge Wynn has decided that @ncgop should not be allowed to draw election districts under any circumstances under any set of rules," Wodehouse wrote. "This is a hostile takeover of the #NCGA and legislative bodies across the U.S."

J. Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College near Charlotte, told The New York Times that new maps could give some political "hope" to Democrats in time for the midterm elections this year.

"I can imagine the Republicans being furious, but they have to see political reality, and it's not just in the next two weeks: It's come November," he said.

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