North Carolinians voting in midterm primaries in July.
Photo: AP

North Carolina legislators were ordered to redraw their Congressional districts in February 2016 after it was found by a federal court that two of the districts were racially gerrymandered. These new districts were found by federal judges to be unconstitutional in January of this year, but in June the Supreme Court asked for further consideration. Now, another three federal judges have released an opinion that may cause the state to redraw the lines again, just in time for the 2018 midterms.

The panel found that the state’s districts were drawn to unconstitutionally favor Republicans over Democrats. The three judges recommended that the lines be redrawn before the midterms, even though primary elections have already taken place.

According to Election Law Blog author Rick Hasen, this decision is not a surprise. After redrawing the lines in 2016, North Carolina lawmakers proudly reported that they had created a partisan gerrymander to replace the racial one. “I acknowledge freely that this would be a political gerrymander, which is not against the law,” Representative David Lewis, the chair of the state House redistricting committee said in a meeting in January. “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.”

It’s likely that North Carolina legislators will send this new opinion to the Supreme Court. But since the court is currently tied on conservative and liberal lines, the decision may just bounce back down to this panel. If North Carolina does redraw its district lines before the election, it could help tip the balance in the House of Representatives towards Democratic control.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article falsely stated that the House of Representatives could block a Supreme Court nominee. We regret the error.