Lawmakers Take N.C. Congressional Map Dispute To U.S. Supreme Court

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore speaking at the Carolina Liberty Conference. Photo by Brenee Goforth, John Locke Foundation

By Mitch Kokai
Carolina Journal

State legislative leaders are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step into the legal dispute over a new congressional map for North Carolina.

Lawmakers filed Friday for an emergency stay of a state court ruling. That ruling established a court-imposed map for this year’s congressional elections. Based on recommendations from an appointed group of special masters, a three-judge Superior Court panel threw out the General Assembly’s latest congressional map.

“The United States Constitution is clear – state legislatures, not state judges, are responsible for setting the rules governing elections,” said State House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, in a statement linked to the court filing. “By striking the General Assembly’s congressional map and redrawing their own, with the help of Democrat partisans, the courts have, once again, violated the separation of powers. This effort to circumvent the elected representatives of the people will not stand.”

“Furthermore, this coordinated effort is funded by Eric Holder and led by disgraced Democrat operative Marc Elias, who have no business in interfering in our elections,” Moore added. Holder, a U.S. attorney general under former President Barack Obama, has been leading national redistricting efforts designed to support Democrats. Elias’ law firm represents one of three separate groups of plaintiffs who challenged N.C. congressional and legislative election maps.

“I will pursue all legal means to ensure that North Carolina’s elections are decided by North Carolinians and that the constitution and rule of law are followed,” Moore said.

The appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court follows final action on new election maps at the state court level. Late on Wednesday the N.C. Supreme Court rejected all appeals of a decision from a three-judge Superior Court panel. That panel upheld revised maps drawn for elections to the N.C. House and Senate. But the panel tossed out a map for North Carolina’s 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Based on recommendations from three advisers known as special masters — former N.C. Supreme Court Justices Bob Edmunds and Bob Orr, and former UNC System President Tom Ross — the three-judge panel replaced the General Assembly’s congressional map with a map of its own. The panel ruled that the map would be used only for the 2022 elections.

“The statewide result is a 7-7 split of congressional districts in typical elections,” wrote Andy Jackson, director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity at the John Locke Foundation. “That result is out of touch with North Carolina’s political realities for two reasons. First, North Carolina is not a 50-50 state but leans slightly to the right. It is no accident that Republicans have won over 58% of statewide elections over the past decade. Also, Democratic voters tend to be concentrated while Republicans are more evenly spread across the state. Because of those two factors, the plaintiffs’ own expert witnesses in the redistricting case found that a map drawn using politically neutral redistricting criteria would most likely have a 9-5 or 8-6 Republican split.”

Candidate filing reopened Thursday for all N.C. elections. Filing is scheduled to last through March 4, with a primary election scheduled for May 17. It’s unclear how that schedule would change if the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the case.

“The federal constitution expressly provides that the manner of federal elections shall ‘be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof,'” according to the court filing. “Yet barring this Court’s immediate intervention, elections during the 2022 election cycle for the U.S. House of Representatives in North Carolina will be conducted in a manner prescribed not by the State’s General Assembly but rather by its courts. ‘The Constitution provides that state legislatures’ — not ‘state judges’ — ‘bear primary responsibility for setting election rules,’ … and this Court should intervene to protect the Constitution’s allocation of power over this matter of fundamental importance to our democratic system of government.”

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