A great blind spot in the United States’ democratic system is that the courts ignore partisanship in assessing the fairness of election districts. Courts regularly throw out maps because they disenfranchise racial minorities, but they look past tactics that weaken the influence of those in the political minority
Now a lawsuit in federal court offers hope of getting the judiciary to recognize that partisan redistricting can be as contrary to democracy as racial gerrymandering. The good government advocacy group Common Cause and the North Carolina Democratic Party have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro challenging the constitutionality of partisan redistricting. The defendants are legislative leaders, the State Board of Elections and Gov. Pat McCrory.
Bob Phillips, executive director of the North Carolina chapter of Common Cause, senses that public frustration with gridlock and the recognition by some Supreme Court justices that partisan redistricting is a problem, make this a good time for a legal challenge.
Phillips noted that Republican state lawmakers talked directly about their intention to tilt the district maps as far as possible in their favor.
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“That open admission was done because the courts have placed limits on racial gerrymandering, but have left unanswered the question of whether partisan gerrymandering is allowable,” Phillips said. “We believe our case can finally make clear that gerrymandering of any kind violates the constitutional rights of North Carolina voters.”