U.S. Supreme Court puts North Carolina redistricting and elections on hold

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U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo by Christina Haley.)
U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo by Christina Haley.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Supreme Court order issued on Tuesday put a hold on – and maybe a stop to – new elections in North Carolina.

The high court’s order dates back to the 2011 redistricting of North Carolina, which lead to a lawsuit filed in 2015. The order is not a ruling on the case, but does grant a request made by North Carolina Republican state officials to halt special elections, mandated for November, 2017, by the United States District Court (in the Middle District on North Carolina).

As a result of the 2015 lawsuit, the District Court had ordered the new elections on Nov. 29 of 2016. That followed an August ruling which found the state General Assembly had illegally gerrymandered districts to reduce the impact of African American votes. The August ruling required North Carolina to redraw its legislative map by March of 2017.

Tuesday’s Supreme Court order postpones the special election while the court decides whether or not to hear Republicans’ appeal to overturn the lower District Court’s decision. It does not nullify North Carolina’s requirement to redraw its map – only if the Supreme Court decides to hear the Republican appeal and sides in their favor will the state’s map remain the same.

According to the Supreme Court’s order, the “stall shall expire automatically” if the District Court’s “judgment should be affirmed, or the [Republican] appeal  dismissed.” In other words, if the Supreme Court declines to hear the appeal before November, North Carolina will still have to hold elections. At present, the Supreme Court is scheduled for discussion during a conference on Jan. 19.

A Supreme Court decision is also still pending in McCrory vs. Harris, which will decide whether North Carolina’s Congressional district map was also illegally gerrymandered. The case was argued in December of 2016.