As legislative leaders await a court order setting a timeline for redistricting, Gov. Roy Cooper called Monday for a special election to be held under new districts before the legislature’s 2018 session.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that some of the current legislative districts are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, a federal three-judge panel will set a timeline for redistricting – determining if new elections must be held this year or if the new maps will take effect in 2018.
Cooper issued a statement suggesting that the state shouldn’t wait until 2018.
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“North Carolina shouldn’t hold another session or have another budget voted on by an unconstitutional legislature,” Cooper said. “Maps should be drawn this month and an election held before next year’s legislative session. If the legislature doesn’t do its job soon the courts should.”
The legislature is scheduled to return next April for its “short session,” meaning a special election could be held early in 2018 before the legislative session.
Last Friday, the three-judge panel issued a memo saying it “intends to act promptly on this matter” and asking legislative leaders, the state elections board and “the state” to submit statements that address the concerns of the challengers “as expeditiously as possible.”
One of the questions the court wants the filings to address is “the extent of the likely disruption to the ordinary processes of governance if early elections are imposed.”
A federal court ruling from last year had called for new maps to be drawn by March, with a special election this fall – but the Supreme Court’s order doesn’t keep that timeline.
In court filings in late May, attorneys for state lawmakers argued against holding elections this year, saying it would be “exceedingly difficult (if not entirely unrealistic)” to draw new maps and hold elections in any new districts by November.
But the N.C. Democratic Party on Monday praised Cooper’s call for a special election.
“North Carolina Republicans have shown that when faced with calls to do the right thing – including a unanimous Supreme Court decision – they’ll simply say no,” Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said in a news release. “Gov. Cooper is right to take action and push for special elections. Our state has suffered under an unconstitutional legislature for too long. It’s time we right this wrong and elect a constitutional legislature that fully represents the people of North Carolina.”
Last week, Senate leader Phil Berger said the legislature will follow the court order once it’s issued. Both the House and Senate canceled Cooper’s call for a special legislative session to draw new maps.
“We are waiting for the courts to provide us with the direction that the Supreme Court says they’re going to provide,” he said.