Scalia's death could create chaos in NC redistricting case

Posted February 14, 2016 6:45 p.m. EST
Updated February 15, 2016 4:58 a.m. EST

— The loss of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will be felt on the bench and across the country and many are wondering who will fill Scalia’s seat and what that will mean for future decisions made at the nation’s highest court.

Flags flew at half-staff Sunday at the North Carolina legislative building to honor the longest-serving U.S. Supreme Court Justice, but before the flags even came down, the conversation turned to politics.

“Justice Scalia has anchored the conservative side of the court. Now, with him gone, you have a much divided court, so the stakes are very high for both parties to get that fifth vote,” said Duke professor Kerry Haynie.

Haynie said the vote could shift the balance and change the future of cases presented before the Supreme Court justices, including the redistricting decision in North Carolina.

“We can’t have a primary on March 15. I don’t think there’s enough time to get the districts drawn, the public educated, to have an election,” said Haynie

On Feb. 5, federal judges called two North Carolina voting districts unconstitutional, claiming race was unfairly used to draw the dividing line. Although the order found only two districts unconstitutional, they touch so many other districts that the bulk of North Carolina’s federal elections map will have to be redrawn, which cause trouble since absentee ballots for the primary were already sent out.

The state appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court now is less likely, I think, to rehear the North Carolina case and the best that the Republicans can hope for is a 4-4 vote. When the Supreme Court is deadlocked, the lower court decision stands,” Haynie. “Now having lost a very strong voice on the conservative side, that throws wide open these decisions.”

Hearings are scheduled across the state Monday to get feedback on state congressional districts.