@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Injunction sought, could delay legislative primaries in Wake

Posted February 21, 2018 2:56 p.m. EST
Updated February 21, 2018 3:44 p.m. EST

 Election sign.

The legal team behind numerous redistricting lawsuits in North Carolina filed another one Wednesday, seeking an injunction that would potentially delay this year's House elections in Wake County.

Filing for those races has been underway more than a week, but attorneys argue that "flagrant violations of federal law and unrelenting political gamesmanship" by the Republican majority in the General Assembly have had state voters electing officials from unconstitutional districts since 2011.

Attorneys for the state NAACP, League of Women Voters, Democracy North Carolina, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and four named voters want the courts to change four Wake County districts back to what they looked like in 2011. That was before the GOP majority was forced to redraw the state's House and Senate election maps in a federal case brought by much the same legal team and which found racial gerrymanders in a number of districts statewide.

The plaintiffs' lawyers in that case argued repeatedly that Republican legislators violated the North Carolina Constitution in that redraw because they changed district lines they didn't have to. Absent a court order, the state constitution forbids redrawing districts more than once a decade, a process undertaken after the U.S. census produces new population numbers.

Attorneys argued Republican leaders didn't have to redraw the four Wake County House districts targeted in this latest case to address the previous racial gerrymander. Those four districts are 36, 37, 40 and 41.

Wednesday's request for a preliminary injunctions states that, if the court moves quickly, it can order the old districts reinstituted, and the state can still hold primaries in Wake County on May 8. A proposed schedule states that the court would have to order the map changes by March 9 to keep the primary date in place.

If that's not enough time, attorneys said Wake County's primaries could be delayed. They said this would be similar to special primaries held in 2016 when a federal court ordered a map redraw less than a month before the congressional primaries.

The plaintiffs asked Wednesday for a three-judge panel to be named on the case, and they asked for a hearing to be held as soon as possible.

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, the point man on House redistricting efforts, said in a statement Wednesday that he hopes "the courts will see through this last-minute partisan lawsuit" from "front groups for the Democratic Party"

"They are showing once again their intention is to ‘sue until NC is blue,'" Lewis said.