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Judge wants to know when he can get new Wake County election maps

Uncertainty remains on election maps for Wake County commissioners and school board

Grant Whitney, chairman of the State Board of Elections, expresses reluctance about having to potentially draw up new maps for Wake County Board of Commissioners and school board.
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Grant Whitney, chairman of the State Board of Elections, expresses reluctance about having to potentially draw up new maps for Wake County Board of Commissioners and school board.

A federal judge has scheduled a hearing Tuesday to discuss how to carry out an appellate ruling that declared the state legislature’s maps for Wake County Board of Commissioners and school board to be unconstitutional.

In an order Wednesday, U.S. Chief District Court Judge James C. Dever III asked attorneys for the plaintiffs, the Wake County Board of Elections, the State Board of Elections and Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore to appear in his Raleigh courtroom next week.

Dever said he wants to hear when the State Board of Elections can submit new Wake election maps that can be used in the Nov. 8 election. State election officials have told Dever they don’t have the software or expertise to draw new maps but would do so if directed by the court.

Dever also wants state legislative leaders to tell him when they can submit “illustrative maps” that could be used to help draw new election districts. Berger and Moore had told Dever that the General Assembly wouldn’t be able to adopt new Wake maps this year but could provide examples.

In a prior order, Dever had told election officials and legislative leaders he was prepared to draw new Wake maps if neither group did so.

Dever also acknowledged in his new order that the plaintiffs want him to reinstate the maps that the school board and commissioners adopted in 2011 before they were replaced by the General Assembly.

The new order comes a day after the the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request to reconsider a three-judge panel’s July 1 ruling that tossed the new Wake maps. Dever is the trial judge who will be tasked with implementing the panel’s decision.

In 2013, the Republican-led General Assembly redrew the lines for all nine Wake school board seats, turning two into regional districts that each covers about half the county. In 2015, state legislators changed the Wake commissioner lines to match those used by the school board.

All nine school board seats and five Board of Commissioners seats, including the two regional districts created by state legislators, were scheduled to be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

A group that includes several Democratic Party officials and activists challenged the new maps in court. In February, Dever dismissed the lawsuit, but he was overturned by the Fourth Circuit in a 2-1 decision.

The court and election officials are working under a tight timeline for making a decision. Election officials say they need to know by Aug. 10 which maps will be used.

Depending on what plan is used, the filing period for candidates may need to be reopened. Wake election officials have told Dever there’s not enough time to hold a new primary for commissioner races.

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