Before we dive in, a quick refresher: The process of mapping out Congressional districts is generally controlled by the majority party in each state's legislature. Gerrymandering is when the map-drawing process is intentionally used to benefit a particular party, either to help win more seats in the legislature or to protect the seats it has. In the past, Gerrymandering has also been used to suppress the votes of people of certain races. Go here to read more about the basics.
Ah, the case of Common Cause v. Rucho the Douche-o. When North Carolina Republicans redrew the state's 13 congressional districts, David Lewis, chair of the redistricting committee, gave instructions to "create as many districts as possible in which GOP candidates would be able to successfully compete for office." In doing that, they made sure to lock in a 10-3 balance in the GOP's favor. Rude. And the judges agreed!
Last week, a panel of federal judges said that the North Carolina General Assembly created an unconstitutional partisan district while drawing their congressional maps in 2016 and ordered the district maps to be redrawn by January 24th. In the ruling the court said that the map violated the constitution's equal protection clause and was an infringement on the free speech of voters since they would not be casting meaningful ballots.
Not exactly. This ruling is a big though! Gerrymandering for partisan reasons has been the accepted norm in the most of the country for a long time. After all, both parties are inclined to take advantage of it, and up until now, courts have only punished states for gerrymandering related to race. This ruling is the first time that gerrymandering has been struck down simply because of its partisan nature.
Now we have to wait on the Supreme court. Ugh. They are currently considering two other gerrymandering cases - Wisconsin and Maryland. This North Carolina case will most likely have an influence on those other cases, and we might even see new standards for the drawing districts when the SCOTUS decisions are published in June. [Eeeeek. Nerves.]