North Carolina’s 2022 primary election delayed in court battle over maps | New

RALEIGH, North Carolina – The 2022 North Carolina primary election must be delayed – as lawsuits for gerrymandering unfold that could lead to redesigned districts – the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

It’s a victory for liberal voters and the groups who challenged the new political maps for these races as being unconstitutionally gerrymandered, and a loss for the Republican lawmakers who drew the maps.

All primaries, not just those using contested cards for the United States House, State House, and Senate, are postponed to May 17 from March 8.

The delay is necessary, “in light of the great public interest in the subject of these cases, the importance of the issues for the constitutional jurisprudence of this state and the need for urgency,” the Supreme Court wrote.

The order did not say whether the judges had taken a formal vote or, if so, what the result was, but the court currently has a Democratic majority. Their decision overturns an order of the Republican-majority Court of Appeal, which ruled Monday evening that the primaries could continue as planned.

The cards in question would give the GOP a huge advantage in future elections, likely helping Republicans win a majority of seats even if Democrats win a majority of the vote statewide, according to several external analyzes. And they will be used in every election for the next decade – unless a court forces them to be redesigned, which Democrats argue.

“Halting nominations and postponing primary elections are important steps in ensuring North Carolina voters the freedom to elect their representatives,” North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Bobbie Richardson said on Wednesday. , in a press release.

A senior GOP redistribution official said in a press release on Wednesday that it is the Democrats who are really trying to rig the system.

“Supreme Court Democrats want districts that elect more Democrats, so they block all elections in the state until they get what they want,” State Senator Ralph said Hise from Spruce Pine.

But the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, which brought one of the cases and accuses lawmakers of partisan and racial gerrymandering, said the delayed primary would allow voters to be heard in court.

“We will continue to stand up for voters to vote on a level playing field for elections next year and beyond,” Carrie Clark, executive director of the group, said in a statement. “This is the only way our people can have a General Assembly and a Congressional delegation that protects the right of every North Carolinian to clean air, clean water and clean energy.”

Republican lawmakers argued in court records Wednesday that it’s not enough for challengers to prove the cards are tilted – they should also prove that they are intentionally tilted.

And they preemptively criticized the decision to delay the primaries as “undemocratic” if, they said, “any well-funded private citizen or public interest group can go to court, drop the tag “gerrymander” on a file and obtain an injunction affecting the voting opportunities of 10.4 million North Carolina residents, regardless of the merits of the case. “

North Carolina Speaker of the House Tim Moore, a Republican, added in a statement that “throwing this process into chaos amid the filing leaves the North Carolinas in limbo ahead of the election.”

Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said in his own statement that the ordinance “restores faith to the rule of law.”

Wednesday’s ruling is far from the final say in either of the lawsuits that challenge the cards, each making slightly different claims. GOP leaders could still win and keep their cards in place. But Republicans were hoping to at least run the 2022 election according to the new maps, and Wednesday’s order makes that seem less likely to happen.

In the past, trials of these kinds of lawsuits have taken years to unfold. But now the Supreme Court is ordering an accelerated delay. The trial is due to be completed by January 11, 2022, they ordered – barely a month from now. Their order also provides for a speedy process for any appeals that may arise after the trial.

All of this, and the court’s explicit invocation of “urgency” could indicate that judges are hoping the case will be concluded long before the May primaries, leaving enough time to redraw the cards if they prove to be unconstitutional. .

Redistribution lawsuits are common in North Carolina. Democrats were found to have unconstitutionally manipulated the cards when in control in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

The Republicans then took control of the state legislature – and therefore redistribution as well – during the Tea Party wave of 2010. This allowed them to redraw the political maps of the state in 2011, like required by law every decade to reflect new census demographics. These cards were later found to be unconstitutional, as were the cards they drew to replace them.

But over the past decade, courts have generally not acted as quickly as the Supreme Court now suggests. In the end, the elections of 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 all took place on unconstitutional cards.

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(c) 2021 The News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina)

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