(Reuters) - Two of North Carolina's congressional districts were racially gerrymandered in a 2011 redistricting and must be redrawn within two weeks, a U.S. appeals court panel ruled on Friday.
The order written by Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Roger Gregory bars elections in the majority black districts, the 1st and the 12th, until the new maps are approved. North Carolina congressional primaries are scheduled for March 15
"This Court finds that Congressional Districts 1 and 12 as drawn in the 2011 Congressional Redistricting Plan are unconstitutional," Gregory wrote.
The ruling said race had been the main factor when the Republican-controlled legislature redrew the boundaries and state lawmakers were not justified in using that benchmark.
Three voters filed suit in 2013 to invalidate the districts. Both are represented by Democrats, with G.K. Butterfield in the 1st, and Alma Adams in the 12th.
State Senator Bob Rucho and House member David Lewis, who guided the redistricting plan through the legislature, were quoted on the Raleigh News and Observer website as saying they would appeal the ruling by the three-judge panel.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)