Courts: Congressional races, amendment language all a go
Posted September 4, 2018 5:13 p.m. EDT
Updated September 4, 2018 6:52 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina's congressional races will be held this November under the current maps, and all six proposed amendments to the state constitution will be on the ballot as well.
Rulings to that effect came down late Tuesday afternoon from state and federal courts, essentially finalizing the November ballot after weeks of back and forth in multiple lawsuits.
The bottom line:
- The state Supreme Court declined to keep a pair of amendments from appearing on the ballot, something Gov. Roy Cooper had requested. Cooper argued that the way the Republican legislative majority wrote those ballot questions was misleading.
- A panel of three federal judges will still push for a redraw of North Carolina's congressional districts, saying they were unconstitutionally drawn to help elect Republicans. But it won't require that redraw ahead of the November election, as the court once contemplated.
Republican leaders greeted the rulings Tuesday and called on the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to begin printing ballots now. Board spokesman Patrick Gannon said in an email that elections staff plans to send data to the ballot printer as soon as Wednesday morning in order to meet a Sept. 22 federal deadline for absentee ballots.
Democrats complained that North Carolina will again elect its congressional delegation using a map declared unconstitutional.
The federal panel in that case, though, concluded that there wasn't enough time to force a redraw this cycle. Last week, it considered delaying those elections, but on Friday, the plaintiffs in the underlying lawsuit said they didn't want to create chaos by going down that path.
The panel agreed in its order Tuesday: "And we further find that imposing a new schedule for North Carolina’s congressional elections would, at this late juncture, unduly interfere with the State’s electoral machinery and likely confuse voters and depress turnout."
The judges called on both sides to file briefs by 5 p.m. Thursday on the next step in that case: Determining whether North Carolina's congressional map will be redrawn ahead of the 2020 elections, a question likely to go all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Plaintiffs in the case called in their latest filing for all possible speed.
"It would be an abomination if the Legislative Defendants were somehow able to delay Supreme Court review into the 2019 Term of the Court, and then argue – yet again – that it is too late to afford a remedy," they wrote.
As for the constitutional amendments, they will appear on the ballot as rewritten during a recent special session, which was called after the state courts found the General Assembly's original language misleading. There may still be a trial on whether the new ballot language is fairly written, but that trial would come after the November elections, and only if Cooper or others continue to push the issue.
That could potentially overturn election results, but long-time legislative attorney Gerry Cohen said Tuesday that seems "highly unlikely."