Under the Dome

NC Republicans and gerrymander challengers seek Supreme Court intervention. But they want different things.

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the Wisconsin and Maryland partisan gerrymander cases back to the lower courts for further proceedings. A North Carolina lawsuit challenging the 13 congressional seats as partisan gerrymanders is in the queue.
The U.S. Supreme Court sent the Wisconsin and Maryland partisan gerrymander cases back to the lower courts for further proceedings. A North Carolina lawsuit challenging the 13 congressional seats as partisan gerrymanders is in the queue. AP file photo

North Carolina Republican lawmakers once again have turned to the U.S. Supreme Court with hopes of blocking a ruling in a gerrymander case that went against them.

The lawmakers on Wednesday sought an emergency delay in a ruling that changed election districts in nine counties. The request was expected.

A three-judge panel ordered lawmakers last week to use maps drawn by Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford University law professor hired by the court to help correct the Republicans’ redraw of state House and Senate districts in 2017.

North Carolina lawmakers and their attorneys have spent much of the past decade in courtrooms battling lawsuits challenging their redistricting plans.

This month, a panel of federal judges struck down the state’s 13 congressional districts as partisan gerrymanders. The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the ruling from taking immediate effect while an appeal is prepared and considered.

The Campaign Legal Center, which has represented North Carolina and Wisconsin challengers in the partisan gerrymander cases, asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to expedite review in the congressional district case.

Not doing so, the attorneys at the center contended, could lead to another election under an unconstitutional map. They pushed for a schedule that could permit arguments before the high court in April and a possible ruling before it’s too late to hold elections in new congressional districts this year.

“The cost of leaving resolution of this appeal until it is too late to redraw the Congressional district lines in North Carolina is extraordinarily high: if this Court ultimately affirms the District Court’s judgment and declares the 2016 Plan an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, but that decision comes too late for the map to be redrawn in time for the 2018 election, then North Carolina voters will have voted in four consecutive Congressional elections under unconstitutional maps,” attorneys for the challengers said in their request for fast-tracking the case. “The Court should not risk perpetuating—or being seen as condoning—this sordid history of constitutional violations.”

Republicans referred to the congressional case in their request for a delay in the legislative case.

“This is a case of déjà vu all over again. Less than 24 hours after this Court issued a stay of a decision invaliding North Carolina’s congressional districting map, the Middle District of North Carolina was at it again,” attorneys for legislators wrote, calling the latest ruling a “hostile takeover of the state redistricting process.”

Challengers of the state legislative districts have until noon Feb. 2, 10 days before the filing period opens, to respond to the lawmakers’ request to block the ruling while an appeal is filed.

Anne Blythe: 919-836-4948, @AnneBlythe1

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