Wake County election officials said Thursday they need more time before deciding how to respond to a federal court ruling that tossed out the state legislature’s districts for the school board and Board of Commissioners.
Last week, a U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals panel declared the new Wake County school board and commission districts unconstitutional and prohibited those election maps to be used this fall. After meeting behind closed doors Thursday, members of the Wake County Board of Elections said they want to consult with the State Board of Elections and spend more time discussing the issue with their attorney.
“Today was our first meeting as a board with our attorney to get an idea of the different issues here,” said J. Brian Ratledge, chairman of the Wake Board of Elections. “There still are a number of considerations going on, so we’re still considering our options.”
Ratledge said no decision has been made about whether to ask the full U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the case or to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Wake County Board of Elections is the lone defendant in the lawsuit because it was charged with implementing the state maps.
Nine Wake school board seats and five Board of Commissioners races – including two seats created by state lawmakers – were scheduled to be on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Under state law, the State Board of Elections is authorized “to make reasonable interim rules and regulations” when county elections are declared unconstitutional. State election officials hope U.S. Chief District Court Judge James C. Dever III, the trial judge, will issue an order that gives clear direction on what should be done.
If Dever doesn’t give specifics, election officials will have to do more to fill in the blanks.
The plaintiffs want election officials to reinstate the 2011 maps that the school board and commissioners had adopted before they were replaced by state legislators.
Election officials are working under a tight time frame. Absentee ballots are supposed to be mailed Sept. 9.
“I’d ask folks to be patient and to stay tuned,” Ratledge said.