By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) – A panel of judges in North Carolina ruled on Monday that a new congressional map approved by lawmakers last month will be used for the state’s 2020 primaries, saying there was not enough time to determine whether it was a form of partisan gerrymandering.
The same three-judge Wake County Superior Court panel several weeks ago blocked the state from using a congressional map created in 2016 in next year’s elections, suggesting that map’s boundaries were gerrymandered to favor Republicans.
Monday’s decision clears the way for candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives to file their paperwork to represent new districts drawn on Nov. 15 by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly. The primaries will be held March 3.
“The net result is the grievous and flawed 2016 map has been replaced,” Judge Paul Ridgeway said during a hearing, the Charlotte Observer newspaper reported.
The congressional map was drawn without partisan goals or data, Assemblymen David Lewis and Destin Hall, the Republican co-chairs of the house’s congressional redistricting committee, said in a statement.
“It’s time now to stop the endless litigation and out-of-state lawyering around North Carolina’s redistricting process and let the people determine their congressional representatives,” they said.
Republicans hold 10 of the state’s 13 U.S. House seats, despite a nearly even split between Democratic and Republican votes in the popular count. Republicans across the United States hope to recapture the House of Representatives after Democrats swept to power in that chamber last year.
State Democratic officials were not celebrating the ruling.
“North Carolina Republicans yet again run out the clock on fair maps, denying justice to North Carolina voters and forcing our state to go another election using undemocratic district lines,” the state’s Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said in a statement.
In June, the Supreme Court sided with Republican lawmakers in North Carolina and Democratic legislators in Maryland who drew electoral district boundaries that were challenged by voters as so politically biased that they violated rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Last year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the state’s U.S. congressional lines. The new map was credited with helping Democrats split the state’s 18 congressional seats in 2018 after years of Republican dominance.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Bill Berkrot)