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Supreme Court delays order forcing North Carolina to redraw congressional maps

In this Feb. 16, 2016, file photo, Republican state Sens. Dan Soucek, left, and Brent Jackson, right, review historical maps during The Senate Redistricting Committee for the 2016 Extra Session in the Legislative Office Building at the N.C. General Assembly, in Raleigh, N.C.

AP

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The U.S. Supreme Court has delayed a lower-court order that would have forced North Carolina Republican lawmakers to redraw the state's congressional districts by next week because of excessive partisan bias in current lines. Earlier this month, federal judges ever struck down the congressional plan on partisan gerrymandering claims.

The justices announced their decision late Thursday after legal briefs were filed for and against the GOP legislators' request for a delay. Their lawyers successfully argued that a three-judge panel's ruling last week declaring the state congressional map an illegal partisan gerrymander should be put on hold while similar cases from Wisconsin and Maryland before the Supreme Court are settled. 

Voter advocacy groups and Democratic voters who sued over the map -- heavily weighted toward Republicans -- argued no delay was necessary because it would be struck down however the justices rule in the other cases.

In the ruling on Jan. 9, the three judges agreed the "invidious partisanship" in the plan violated the Constitution's equal protection provision and direction to the state to hold congressional elections because it took the power to elect their representatives away from the people.

"We find that the General Assembly drew and enacted the 2016 plan with intent to subordinate the interests of non-Republican voters and entrench Republican control of North Carolina's congressional delegation," U.S. Circuit Court Judge Jim Wynn wrote in the majority opinion. Wynn added that the evidence shows the "plan achieved the General Assembly's discriminatory partisan objective."