(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked a lower court’s order for North Carolina to rework its congressional map because Republicans violated the Constitution by drawing electoral districts intended to maximize their party’s chances of winning.
The conservative-majority court granted a bid by Republican legislators in North Carolina to suspend the Jan. 9 order by a federal court panel in Greensboro that gave the Republican-controlled General Assembly until Jan. 24 to come up with a new map for U.S. House of Representatives districts.
Two liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, objected to the high court’s action.
The Supreme Court’s decision to stay the order reduces the chance that the current district lines will be altered ahead of the November mid-term congressional elections.
The three-judge panel ruled that the Republican-drawn districts violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law by intentionally hobbling the electoral strength of non-Republican voters. Two of the three judges also said the plan ran afoul of the Constitution’s First Amendment by discriminating based on political belief and association.
Those judges on Tuesday refused to put the ruling on hold.
North Carolina’s congressional maps were challenged in two lawsuits by more than two dozen Democratic voters, the North Carolina Democratic Party and other groups.
Under current North Carolina congressional boundaries, Republicans won 10 of the 13 House districts in 2016, despite getting just 53 percent of the statewide vote.
Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham