Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have some unexpected work to do before this year's midterms: A federal court just ripped up the state's voting map and ordered the GOP-controlled General Assembly to draw a new one, reports the News & Observer of Raleigh. The three-judge panel ruled unanimously that Republicans violated the Constitution by drawing the current election districts to favor their party. It's the first time a federal court has struck down a congressional map over political gerrymandering, reports the New York Times. The court, deciding that the map violated the free-speech rights of non-Republican voters, gave lawmakers until Jan. 29 to come up with a new one. If that one fails to satisfy, the court would issue one of its own.
“On its most fundamental level, partisan gerrymandering violates ‘the core principle of republican government ... that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around,’” the ruling states. Republicans hardly made a secret of their agenda during the 2016 redrawing, notes the Raleigh newspaper. “I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with eleven Republicans and two Democrats,” one state Republican said at the time. In response to the ruling, the chair of the state Republican party accused the court of attempting a "hostile takeover" of the General Assembly's duties. Republicans may ask the Supreme Court to block enforcement of Tuesday's ruling until the justices rule on a similar case from Wisconsin, notes the AP. (Read more gerrymandering stories.)