Voter advocacy groups ask US Supreme Court to deny NC GOP effort to halt congressional map

Republican lawmakers say a state court violated the U.S. Constitution when it refused to enact a map the legislature redrew

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U.S. Supreme Court Building
Bryan Anderson
, WRAL state government reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina government officials and voting groups on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a request from Republican lawmakers that would prevent the state from implementing a new congressional map that is more favorable to Democrats than a pair of maps Republicans passed in November and February.

The North Carolina Department of Justice, Common Cause NC, state League of Conservation Voters and a group of voters encouraged the court to keep itself out of a process that has carefully worked its way through the state court system.

They say intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court would run counter to previous decisions, including a recent redistricting case involving Alabama. In that decision, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote, “It is one thing for a State on its own to toy with its election laws close to a State’s elections. But it is quite another thing for a federal court to swoop in and re-do a State’s election laws in the period close to an election.”
If the nation’s highest court denies the GOP motion, the map enacted last week by a panel of three North Carolina judges would be allowed to go forward. The denial would bring to a close a highly contentious, monthslong redistricting fight since Republicans would exhaust their legal options.

“This Court has routinely denied applications to stay state courts’ election-related orders,” wrote Common Cause, one of the group's that challenged North Carolina's congressional and legislative maps last year.

NC DOJ filed on behalf of the state and the North Carolina State Board of Elections. State elections officials noted the primary had already been pushed back by 10 weeks and said approval of the GOP lawmakers' request "would jeopardize this carefully calibrated timeline."

But the Supreme Court could instead choose to temporarily suspend the congressional map, siding with Republicans who claim a state court overstepped its authority when it chose not to approve a congressional plan Republican lawmakers redrew and instead craft a plan of its own. North Carolina's Supreme Court ordered the redraw after it determined maps Repulicans passed in November violated the state constitution.

Regardless of the outcome, lawmakers are free to revise the congressional map for races on and beyond 2024.

When announcing the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, Republican State House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement that the federal Constitution makes clear that “state legislatures, not state judges, are responsible for setting the rules governing elections.”

Moore’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday’s filings from voting groups.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represents one of the voting rights groups in the case, said the possible striking down of the congressional map could set a dangerous precedent.

“If accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court, North Carolina lawmakers’ arguments would lead to an unprecedented upheaval of current election law and foreclose any legal relief for voters from extreme legislation which state courts already found to be undemocratic,” said Hilary Harris Klein, the coalition’s senior counsel for voting rights. =

She added, “The Court should refuse the Legislature’s call to dismantle prior legal precedent and deny their request for a free pass to manipulate Congressional voting districts in violation of state Constitutional protections that all voters in North Carolina deserve.”

Under the interim congressional map, Republicans are expected to win at least seven of the 14 U.S. House seats up for grabs, while Democrats would likely get six seats. One congressional district that covers all of Johnston County and the southern portion of Wake County, is considered a toss-up.

The original map Republicans passed in November could have given the party up to 11 congressional seats. In response to a court-ordered redrew, GOP lawmakers approved a plan that could have possibly given the party as many as 10 seats, though four districts were competitive.

Candidate filing for North Carolina’s statewide May 17 primary is scheduled to end at noon on Friday.