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NC GOP officials ask Supreme Court to block gerrymandering ruling

NC GOP officials ask Supreme Court to block gerrymandering ruling
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North Carolina Republicans have asked the Supreme Court to block a federal district court’s decision to strike down the state’s congressional voter map. 

Attorneys for Robert Rucho, chairman of the state’s Senate Redistricting Committee for the 2016 Extra Session, and other state officials submitted a request for an emergency stay of the district court order, which ruled the maps constituted an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, to Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday afternoon.

The request comes less than a day after the state officials filed a notice of their appeal to the Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled Tuesday that the state’s 2016 redistricting plan constituted an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and said the state's districts need to be redrawn before the 2018 midterm elections.

In the majority opinion, Judge James Wynn, who sits on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, said the state’s General Assembly “enacted the plan with the intent of discriminating against voters who favored non-Republican candidates” and ordered a new map be drawn by 5 p.m. on Jan. 24.

In the request to Roberts on Friday, appellate lawyer Paul Clement, argued the court only gave them 14 days to enact a new map and accused the court of disrupting North Carolina’s congressional elections.

“Prohibiting the State from using the duly enacted districting map that governed its last election cycle on the eve of the commencement of the 2018 election cycle is not just practically disruptive, but represents a grave and irreparable sovereign injury,” they wrote. “But a stay is all the more appropriate because this Court is presently considering two partisan gerrymandering cases.”

The filing period for the primary elections is set to open on February 12.

 

Allison Riggs, lead trial attorney for the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, which is challenging the map along with Common Case in two separate cases that were consolidated, called the officials' request inappropriate.

As long as there are five justices on the Supreme Court who believe partisan gerrymandering can be unconstitutional, she said there’s no way North Carolina's plans could be considered constitutional.

If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, Riggs said it would likely have to be on an expedited review in order for the justices to hear arguments this term.

The Supreme Court already heard arguments in one partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin. 

The cases could create a standard for determining when states have crossed the line and drawn districts to increase the political power of one party over another.

Arguments in the Wisconsin case, known as Gill v. Whitford, were heard at the beginning of the term in October, and a ruling could come this winter.

In December the court also agreed to hear a partisan gerrymandering case out of Maryland, Benisek v. Lamone.

In the state’s 2011 redistricting plan, voters claim Democratic state officials intended to dilute the votes of Republicans in the state’s 6th Congressional District who supported the Republican incumbent, then-Rep. Roscoe Bartlett. 

Arguments in that case have not yet been scheduled.