Court Delays North Carolina Primary Election Due to Map Dispute
RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina’s 2022 primary election will be moved from March to May to allow lawsuits over the alleged gerrymandering of congressional and state legislative districts to play out in the court, the state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The ruling, a win for those challenging the maps drawn on the basis of the latest census data, moves the primary from March 8 to May 17.
The court explained it made the move “in light of the great public interest in the subject matter of these cases, the importance of the issues to the constitutional jurisprudence of this state and the need for urgency.”
Their ruling overturned an order by the Republican-majority Court of Appeals which had, on Monday night, ruled that the primaries could continue as planned.
North Carolina’s new map laying out its 14 congressional districts was adopted by the state General Assembly last month.
At the heart of the political dispute over the map are several independent analyses which suggest the maps would give Republican candidates a considerable advantage in elections over the next decade, even in years that Democrats win a majority in the statewide vote.
In a written statement, North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Bobbie Richardson said “Halting candidate filing and delaying the primary election are important steps towards ensuring North Carolina voters have the freedom to elect their representatives. Voters don’t need help from legislators to decide who represents them.”
Republicans have pushed back claiming Democrats are intent on blocking every election they can in court until the outcomes favor them.
In court filings they also contend that it’s not enough for the maps to be found favoring one side or another, the courts must also find they were intentionally drawn that way to declare them invalid.
State Rep. Tim Moore, speaker for the General Assembly, said in a written statement that he was “deeply disappointed by the State Supreme Court’s decision to halt and further delay our election process that is already underway.”
“To throw this process into chaos in the middle of filing leaves North Carolinians with uncertainty ahead of the election. Despite this delay, we are confident that we will prevail at trial and our maps will stand,” he added.
Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project has rated the new North Carolina congressional map an “F” for fairness, calling it one of the most gerrymandered maps in the nation, along with a Republican-drawn congressional map in Texas and a Democratic-drawn map in Illinois.
The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits challenging the maps, said in a tweet that it was gratified by the court’s decision to move the primary “so our case can resolve fully and expeditiously.”
“This will allow voters to be heard in court and to hopefully establish once and for all that our state constitution forbids partisan gerrymandering,” the tweet said.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, also commented, saying in a statement that the state Supreme Court’s order “restores faith in the rule of law.”
“It is necessary for the court to rule on the constitutionality of these unfair districts before the next election,” he said.
The state Supreme Court’s order also directs the trial court to hold expedited proceedings on the cases and to provide a written ruling on the plaintiffs’ claims on or before Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022.