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Timing major factor for congressional gerrymandering decision

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Three federal judges say North Carolina's General Assembly Republicans drew the 2016 congressional map in a way that discriminates against Democrats and violates their constitutional rights.

The decision is one of many that throws 2018 elections in North Carolina up in the air.

"The lines that are drawn up to form the districts that candidates run in for state legislature, for Congress, make a big deal of difference in terms of who's gonna win those elections," Wake Forest University professor of political science John Dinan said.

Dinan says we're in uncharted territory when it comes to legal precedent. The Supreme Court has ruled on racial gerrymandering, or drawing political district lines based on race, but never for partisan advantage.

"That's a big deal because courts around the country have been grappling with whether or not this is a constitutional violation to take account of partisanship and if so what should you do about it? Should courts step in and correct things?" Dinan said.

Or the court could call for a third party to draw the maps, as they've called for in this case. But the big issue here is timing. Candidate filing is in February and the judges order wants new maps produced before then.

Republicans have already called for an appeal to the Supreme Court, which could stay the ruling until other similar cases in Wisconsin and Maryland are decided.

"The timing is really tight," Dinan said. "It's one of the reasons why a lot of analysts don't believe that this congressional redistricting decision won't take immediate effect."