Republican legislative leaders will redraw legislative and congressional maps while still examining other options, after Democrats on the state Supreme Court found for the first time that partisan consideration in map-drawing can violate the state constitution.

“We will redraw the maps,” Republican House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said Monday. “What we’re doing right now is really looking at what the court’s order was.”

The court’s Democratic majority ordered the General Assembly to submit new congressional and state legislative district maps for consideration by Feb. 18.  In submitting the new maps, the court is requiring the legislature to identify a series of tests passed to ensure a sense of “partisan fairness.”

Democrat minority leaders in the General Assembly celebrated the Democrat-majority state Supreme Court’s Friday Night massacre of the Republican-drawn legislative and congressional districts in a press conference.

“It is an incredibly great day for North Carolina,” said Rep. Robert Reives, D-Chatham. “The most important thing we can do is try and start making government work again, and the way we can start making government work again is to start working through fair maps.”

The state Senate will spend this week examining the court order and exploring how to comply with the court’s fiats. The Senate will return to Raleigh next week to adopt new maps.

“We didn’t get a lot of direction as to what would be considered an acceptable map,” Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, told WNCN. “A few things we can look at in considering. But what those standards are, we didn’t get from the courts.”

“The trial court upheld our maps, but the state Supreme Court struck those down,” said Moore. “There really wasn’t a lot of metrics or guidance that was provided. What we’re trying to look at is to see what kinds of things they would have looked at to have tried to conclude that the maps were partisan in some manner.”

Republicans are considering whether to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but GOP leaders in both chambers have said they will submit maps to the court in the demanded timeline.

“It is our intent to comply with the order that’s coming in,” said Hise.

Democrats on the state Supreme Court found that a person’s political affiliation is protected from discrimination just like a person’s race is.  The General Assembly tried to protect itself from accusations of intentional discrimination based on race or politics by banning the use of racial and political data in map drawing.

The court declared that it does not matter how the districts are drawn if the result violates a sense of “partisan fairness,” a term the court refused to define. “Partisan fairness” appears no place in the N.C. Constitution.

The court said it does not matter what the General Assembly intended to do or not do, and said it only matters what election outcomes the maps will likely result in as measured by math experts.

The court not only rejected the legislature’s ban on the use of partisan and racial data map-making, but declared the state Constitution REQUIRES racial data to be used.

State law, passed under a Democrat-controlled General Assembly, requires a court rejecting election maps to identify each offending district and how to correct its flaws. The court blatantly ignored this law.

“It’s very sad that activist judges, who speak at length about the injustices of the past when the rule of law was ignored over race and politics, make decisions based on those very things today,” said Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. “The hypocrisy of these political activists cloaked in black robes is dangerous to the freedom of our State and our Republic as a whole.”

“Fair maps don’t guarantee the Democrats will win. And it wouldn’t guarantee that Republicans would win,” said Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, D-Wake.

“From the language used in the order, they would say that you can’t set up a set of circumstances so that regardless of what the vote for Democrats is – in the mid-50s, or somewhere else – they still can’t win.”

Still Blue and Reives adopted the same stance of fellow Democrats on the state Supreme Court of refusing to define what “fairness” is and how it should be measured. Blue did suggest that no counties should be split more than once in creating congressional districts.

Republicans are highly concerned that while the General Assembly is required to submit to the court statistical rationale to show the court how the legislature achieved “partisan fairness.” the Democrat-aligned plaintiffs are not required to do so when they submit maps for the courts’ consideration. Republicans are concerned that without a clear set of guidelines to follow and clear “safe harbor” provisions, the court has set up a “heads I win, tails you lose’” situation. In that case, no matter what maps the GOP submits, they will fail the unclear and undefined standards of the Democrat-majority state Supreme Court.

Republicans are further concerned that by forcing the legislature to take race into account in map drawing, the court could be forcing the General Assembly into new claims of racial gerrymandering.

Should Republicans retain control of the General Assembly, they will be free to adopt new congressional districts next year and are likely to have a Republican-majority state Supreme Court to review new maps. If the current court accepts new maps the General Assembly draws for legislative districts, Republicans could be stuck with them for the rest of the decade. The only exception would be in the case of a new court precedent that reverses the entire current case and exempts the legislature from the ban on redrawing legislative districts in the middle of the decade.

Reives succinctly summed up how differently the two major political parties look at this issue from a constitutional perspective. Republicans look at this redistricting ruling as a gross abuse of partisan political power by the courts, because partisanship has always been a part of legislative map-drawing, mostly performed by Democrats, and nothing in the text of the constitution says it is forbidden. Reives applauded the courts’ use of the “living and breathing” paper document theory that constitutional conservatives abhor.

“The North Carolina Constitution is just like the United States Constitution — it is a living document. It is a document that people have to look at and interpret with the times,” said Reives.