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Supreme Court blocks court order to redraw North Carolina congressional districts

Story highlights
  • Federal court ordered North Carolina to re-draw its congressional districts
  • Supreme Court action blocks that order, making it likely maps will be used this year
  • Critics say the maps were intended to favor GOP candidates

(CNN) The Supreme Court Thursday agreed to freeze, for now, a lower court opinion that struck down North Carolina congressional districts holding that it amounted to an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. 

The order makes it likely, although not certain, that the controversial maps will be used for the next election. 

Earlier this month, a three judge panel held North Carolina's 2016 plan -- that was passed by a Republican-led legislature was enacted "with the intent of discriminating against voters who favored non-Republican candidates" and that the plan violated the First Amendment by "unjustifiably discriminating against voters based on their previous political expression and affiliation."  

The lower court had ordered the North Carolina General Assembly to enact a remedial redistricting plan by January 24 in order to allow the General Assembly two weeks to draw a remedial plan. 

Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School who formerly worked for the Obama administration's Justice Department, said the Supreme Court's order "likely delays the resolution of justice in North Carolina for yet another election cycle"

"That sort of delay, in a case in which the legislature admitted to seeking maximum partisan advantage, makes it even more important for the Supreme Court to lay down clear rules for addressing the epidemic of partisan gerrymandering going forward," he said.

The order comes as the Supreme Court is also considering two other partisan gerrymander cases out of Maryland and Wisconsin.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the court's order.