North Carolina Supreme Court Delays Primaries, Citing Gerrymandering Lawsuits

By Matt McGregor
Matt McGregor
Matt McGregor
Reporter
Matt McGregor covers news from North and South Carolina for The Epoch Times. Send him your story ideas: matt.mcgregor@epochtimes.us
December 11, 2021 Updated: December 13, 2021

The North Carolina Supreme Court on Dec. 8 ordered a preliminary injunction for the March primaries and suspended candidate filing until two lawsuits alleging gerrymandering are settled.

The 2022 primaries slated for March 8 have been delayed until May 17.

According to the order, the ruling was the result “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 in reaching a final resolution on the merits at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Andy Jackson, director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity at the John Locke Foundation—an independent research institute in North Carolina that examines issues of freedom, personal responsibility, and limited constitutional government—told The Epoch Times that an injunction isn’t unusual to North Carolina, with political district maps having been partially overturned several times over the years because of lawsuits.

“We had an injunction from a lower court in 2019 while a case was happening with the maps that were eventually partially overturned,” Jackson said.

During that time, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision on partisan redistricting in North Carolina ruling that federal judges shouldn’t be involved in the state redistricting process, leaving the debate to take place in state courts, where it was ruled that the 2017 maps “do not permit voters to freely choose their representative, but rather representatives are choosing voters based on sophisticated partisan sorting.”

In the first current lawsuit, the plaintiffs are Rebecca Harper and others, versus defendants listed as Republican state Rep. Destin Hall, chair of the House Redistricting Committee, and other members of the Republican-led legislative body, as well as the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

In the second lawsuit, the plaintiffs are the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters (NCLCV) and others versus the same defendants as above.

The NCLCV says it’s a nonpartisan organization that focuses on “systematically excluded communities of color” as well as environmental issues.

Both lawsuits allege that maps that were approved in November were gerrymandered.

After the 2020 U.S. Census, North Carolina gained a 14th congressional district in the western part of the state, with 50 state Senate and 120 state House of Representative districts.

Hall had called the maps “the most transparent process in the history of this state.”

“We voluntarily chose to be out in public and not use election data, even though by law we didn’t have to do that,” Hall said.

Legislative Opinions on the Order

Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) stated on Dec. 10 that the Supreme Court can’t delay elections without a state reason, and has “demanded a disclosure of the judges’ votes,” which he said were submitted anonymously.

“This state Supreme Court order is one of the most astonishing I’ve ever seen in my entire legal career,” Bishop said. “And they did it right in the middle of the filing period.”

Democratic state Sen. Jay Chaudhuri said on Twitter that the Supreme Court’s decision “restores faith that we all have fair and objective district maps.”

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said the order “restores faith in the rule of law and it is necessary for the Court to rule on the constitutionality of these unfair districts before the next election.”

The state Supreme Court has a 4–3 Democratic majority, although Chief Justice Paul Newby is a Republican.

According to the order, lawsuits must be heard in the trial court and a decision must be made by Jan. 11.

Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said he’s “deeply disappointed in 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 this election. Despite this delay, we are confident that we will prevail at trial and our maps will stand,” he said.

Candidate Filing

While candidate filing had been set to open Dec. 6, a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeals closed filing before the full Court of Appeals reversed the order, reopening filing on Dec. 7.

Then, on Dec. 8, the North Carolina Supreme Court closed the filing.

“No one can file for any office for the election in 2022 until these cases run their course,” Jackson said. “If you are a legislative candidate and you file, then your district changes such that you are no longer living in that district, then you are going to have to refile.”

State legislative candidates have to live in the district they represent, while congressional candidates don’t.

According to the state election board, any candidate whose filing has been accepted by the board “will be deemed to have filed for the same office” in the May primary, subject to any court ruling “that would impact that candidate’s eligibility, according to the Supreme Court order.”

Matt McGregor
Matt McGregor covers news from North and South Carolina for The Epoch Times. Send him your story ideas: matt.mcgregor@epochtimes.us