The North Carolina Supreme Court published its 207-page opinion ruling that the congressional and state legislative districts drawn by the state legislature are unconstitutional on Monday, Feb. 14.

The NC Supreme Court had issued a 20-page brief in the case over a week ago, but that brief gave little indication on how the legislature could draw constitutional districts.

The 4-3 decision of the NC Supreme Court was split along party lines with all four Democratic justices voting in favor of the opinion and all three Republican justices, including Chief Justice Paul Newby, voting against it. 

The North Carolina legislature has Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate and the votes to approve the redistricting maps were also along party lines.

If the Republicans in the legislature were hoping for some clear, well-defined guidelines on how to draw redistricting maps that would be approved by the Democratic majority on the Supreme Court, they must be disappointed.

It appears from the ruling that the Supreme Court would approve districts that were drawn to be completely nonpartisan, but the definition of completely nonpartisan is left for the court to decide.  The opinion states, “There is such a thing as a plan that creates a level playing field for all voters.”

Newby in his dissent states, “With this decision, unguided by the constitutional text, four members of this Court become policymakers.  They wade into the political waters by mandating their approach to redistricting.  They change the time-honored meaning of various portions of our constitution by inserting their interpretation to reach their desired outcome.  They justify this activism because their understanding of certain constitutional provisions has ‘evolved over time.’”

The NC Supreme Court has given the legislature, those who filed lawsuits in opposition to the districts and outside experts until Feb. 18 to submit new redistricting maps. 

The court could approve the new maps drawn by the legislature, the maps drawn by the opponents, maps drawn by an outside expert or could draw its own map.

The deadline for having redistricting maps approved is Feb. 23 and filing for the May 17 primary is scheduled to reopen on Feb. 24.