The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday temporarily blocked a lower court ruling that required the state to redraw 28 legislative districts and hold new elections in 2017 for the affected districts.
The lower court ruling ordered that the state draw the new districts by March 15 and then hold special elections later this year. The court granted the request for a stay until the high court takes action on the state’s appeal of the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals decision.
In November the panel ruled that 28 state legislative districts were illegal racial gerrymanders. The state is seeking to have the elections go forward in 2018 as planned if the new districts are required.
Elections in 2017 could give Democrats a chance to chip away at, or outright eliminate, the Republicans supermajorities in both chambers, which currently would allow the GOP to override any of Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes.
The case originated when the legislature was sued over their redistricting maps where the plaintiffs alleged Republican lawmakers drew the boundaries to create more predominantly white districts, to elect Republicans, by stuffing black voters into adjacent Democratic districts, creating majority-minority districts that were made up of too many black voters.
The GOP defense held that the districts were drawn in accordance with the U.S. Voting Rights Act, but the court found that the districts were made up of more blacks than was necessary.
Already the Supreme Court is hearing arguments oral arguments in similar lawsuits surrounding the state’s congressional districts, which were struck down nearly a year ago, requiring a second congressional primary before Election Day on November last year. The ruling in the case on the congressional districts could inform a decision in the state legislative districts.
House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) released a brief joint statement on the stay on Tuesday.
“We are grateful the U.S. Supreme Court has quashed judicial activism and rejected an attempt to nullify the votes of North Carolinians in the 2016 legislative elections.”