The U.S. Supreme Court, on Thursday, delayed a lower-court order directing North Carolina Republican lawmakers to redraw the state’s Congressional districts by next week over excessive partisan bias in the current lines.
State Republican legislators filed briefs asking for the stay, which the court granted, to allow the case to go to appeal.
The decision will likely be colored by the outcome of similar cases in Wisconsin and Maryland moving forward in the Supreme Court.
Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) and Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), who each chair their chambers’ Senate and House redistricting committees, released a joint statement following the announcement of the stay.
“We are grateful that a bipartisan U.S. Supreme Court has overwhelmingly halted the lower court’s 11th hour attempt to intervene in election outcomes, restored certainty to voters, and ensured that, in the coming days, candidates for office can file in the least gerrymandered and most compact Congressional districts in modern state history,” Lewis and Hise said.
In the past it has been accepted that the redistricting is a partisan process making the lower-court ruling a division from the norm.
The case was brought forward by Democratic voters and voter advocacy groups saying that Republicans went too far when drawing Congressional lines.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would not have approved the stay, according to court filings.
The short order, only two paragraphs in length, simply stays the ruling from the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina and says that Ginsburg ad Sotomayor “would deny the application for stay.”
With the stay pushing an eventual decision on the case further out, the likelihood that the 2018 Congressional elections in November will be had under the currently divided lines is increasing with every passing day.
Currently Republicans hold 10 of the state’s 13 Congressional seats.
Candidate filing for the May primaries is set to begin in February.
Campaign Legal Center and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice are representing the League of Women Voters of North Carolina in the case, and released a statement following the stay.
“North Carolina voters deserve to have a fair map before the 2018 election, or they risk a fourth consecutive election under an unconstitutional map that does not reflect their preferences,” Ruth Greenwood, senior legal counsel, voting rights and redistricting at Campaign Legal Center, said. “A single election under an unconstitutional map is one too many; four are intolerable. For that reason, the Supreme Court must move quickly to hear this case this term.”
“Voters and even most elected officials agree that partisan gerrymandering is violating the constitutional rights of Americans all over the country,” Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said. “While we are disappointed that the stay was granted, North Carolinians deserve to participate in fair elections in 2018. We are optimistic that the U.S.
Supreme Court will, before the end of this term in June, recognize the harm to our democracy created by partisan gerrymandering and find such egregious efforts to diminish voters’ power unconstitutional. We still believe the day is coming soon for the General Assembly to be held to account for this madness. The law and the facts of this case make that clear.”