CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory was involved in the Supreme Court petition.
Attorneys for state leaders on Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block elections ordered for 2017 after a federal court found 28 state Senate and House districts were illegal racial gerrymanders.
The 39-page filing asks Chief Justice John Roberts for emergency intervention to put a halt to the three-judge panel’s order for redrawn districts by March and a special election in 2017. The petition asks for the chief justice to enter an order by Jan. 11, when the General Assembly is set to convene its next session.
“On Election Day, millions of North Carolina voters went to the polls and selected the state legislators who would represent them in the General Assembly for two-year terms in accordance with the North Carolina Constitution. Or so they thought,” Paul Clement, a Washington-based attorney representing the state, stated in the petition signed by Thomas Farr, a Raleigh-based attorney who has represented the legislators on redistricting, Phil Strach, another Raleigh-based attorney, and Alexander McC. Peters of the state attorney general’s office.
In August, after ruling that North Carolina’s 2011 maps had 28 illegal districts, the three-judge panel found that it was too close to the 2016 elections to order new lines drawn and elections held with those maps. Shortly after the Nov. 8 elections, the court ordered the General Assembly to create new maps by March 15, as well as hold special elections in 2017.
The state of North Carolina has asked the three-judge panel put a halt to that order while an appeal is made to the U.S. Supreme Court. That request has not been heard by the three-judge panel, leaving many election law experts, such as Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine, to question the chief justice’s willingess to step into the matter at this point.
“The petition ...seems unlikely to succeed,” Hasen said in his Election Law Blog. “To begin with, as noted, the Court would ordinarily wait for the lower court to rule before ruling itself. And although Jan. 11 is the beginning of the new NC term, nothing requires the legislature to begin work on the petition that day. The work must be done by March 15. So this seems like an odd rush.
Hasen notes that the Friday timing appears connected to the transition in the governor’s office, as Saturday is Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s last day in the job.
“The new incoming governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat likely to have different views on these issues than McCrory,” Hasen wrote. “Although the governor is not a party to the redistricting suit, the Governor and attorney general will likely express opinions in the litigation going forward, opinions adverse to the Republican legislature.”