After North Carolina Judges Toss Out Maps in Gerrymandering Lawsuit, Top GOP Lawmaker Says He Won't Appeal Decision

A court on Tuesday struck down North Carolina's current legislative district maps for "extreme partisan gerrymandering" intended to benefit the Republican Party and ordered officials in the state to redraw the maps in two weeks, a decision that at least one top GOP lawmaker has said he won't appeal.

In a 357-page ruling on Tuesday, the trial court judges presiding over the case ruled 3-0 and wrote that the state's current districts "deprive North Carolina citizens of the right to vote for General Assembly members in elections that are conducted freely and honestly to ascertain, fairly and truthfully, the will of the people."

The three-judge panel consisted of Democrats Alma Hinton of Halifax County, Paul Ridgeway of Wake County and Republican Joseph Crosswhite of Iredell County.

The maps they were referring to were drawn by North Carolina's Republican-led lawmakers in 2017 to replace maps they drew in 2011. Both sets have been ruled unconstitutional.

"Voters are not freely choosing their representatives. Rather, representatives are choosing their voters. It is not the will of the people that is fairly ascertained through extreme partisan gerrymandering. Rather, it is the will of the map drawers that prevails," the court said.

The current maps are in violation of the state's constitution because "it is the carefully crafted maps, and not the will of the voters, that dictate the election outcomes in a significant number of legislative districts and, ultimately, the majority control of the General Assembly," the judges concluded.

North Carolina Gerrymandering
Protesters attends a rally for "Fair Maps" on March 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. The rally was part of the Supreme Court hearings in landmark redistricting cases out of North Carolina and Maryland. A court on Tuesday stuck down North Carolina's political maps in a gerrymandering lawsuit, a decision that one top Republican lawmaker has said he won't attempt to appeal. Tasos Katopodis/Getty

During the trial, North Carolina's state legislative leaders argued for the current legislative districts to be upheld. Despite their loss on Tuesday, NC GOP state Senate leader Phil Berger revealed he will begin following the judgment and intends to draw new maps, rather than appeal the decision.

"We disagree with the court's ruling as it contradicts the Constitution and binding legal precedent, but we intend to respect the court's decision and finally put this divisive battle behind us," Berger said in a statement, according to The Herald Sun. "Nearly a decade of relentless litigation has strained the legitimacy of this state's institutions, and the relationship between its leaders, to the breaking point. It's time to move on."

North Carolina lawmakers were given until September 18 to turn over the new maps. In addition, the court also ordered public transparency in their map drawing process.

Common Cause, a nonpartisan grassroots watchdog group, first brought the lawsuit after members of the state's GOP drew the maps in 2017. "Our heads are spinning here in North Carolina," Bob Phillips, the Executive Director of Common Cause North Carolina said in a phone call with reporters, according to USA Today. "This is a huge win for the voters of North Carolina."

The ruling comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June to uphold the district maps because they decided the federal courts did not possess the authority to throw out lines drawn by state lawmakers.