The North Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a two-month postponement of the 2022 state primary elections, giving critics of the state’s gerrymandered political maps more time to continue a legal battle to redraw them .
The unsigned decision was a setback for the Republican-controlled General Assembly, which created the cards and argued that a delay in the primaries would wreak havoc among candidates and voters.
The court ordered the postponement of the March 8 primary elections for all offices until May 17, citing “the importance of the issues to this state’s constitutional case law and the need for urgency” in deciding the legality of the cards. New state legislative district boundaries and North Carolina’s 14 seat in the US House of Representatives face three lawsuits from Democrats and voting rights advocates in Raleigh state court .
In a state divided almost equally between Republican and Democratic voters, the new cards give Republicans considerable political advantage. The new House map, for example, would virtually guarantee victory for GOP candidates in 10 of the 14 districts, with a decent chance of winning an 11th seat.
The legal struggle for the new frontiers also appears to have divided state judges along political lines. Republicans had secured a ruling from the state Court of Appeals, dominated by Republican judges, keeping the March 8 primary date as of Monday. The state Supreme Court, which overturned the decision, is tightly controlled by Democratic judges.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represents plaintiffs in one of the trials, hailed the ruling as a victory for voters.
“This sends a clear message that North Carolinians deserve to vote in elections held in fair and constitutional constituencies,” Hilary Harris Klein, the group’s senior voting rights lawyer, said in a statement.
Lawmakers in the Republican state issued a press release calling the move a political power grab. “Supreme Court Democrats want districts that elect more Democrats, so they block all elections in the state until they get what they want,” Republican Sen. ‘State Ralph Hise.
Delays in primary elections resulting from prosecution for gerrymandering are not unusual. Federal judges have twice postponed the 2012 Texas primary election amid a redistribution dispute. North Carolina, where there have been more redistribution trials than many other states, also has a history of postponement: the State Board of Elections ordered the postponement of the 2004 primaries in one of those cases. court battles.
The state Supreme Court has released a very fast-tracked timeline for resolving the gerrymandering dispute, starting with an order directing the Raleigh State Superior Court to issue an initial decision next month. The Supreme Court also signaled that appeals of this decision will also be expedited.
The order to postpone the primary elections seems likely to further fuel Republicans’ outrage at Supreme Court rulings that went against the party’s wishes.
A former chairman of the state’s Republican Party suggested last month that judges should be removed over a ruling in a long-running dispute over public funding for education. The legislature appears to agree and has added impeachment to its agenda for a special legislative session starting at the end of the month.