Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett.
Anyone hoping to run for a congressional seat in North Carolina is now left waiting — indefinitely — for candidate filing to open.
A Superior Court order Thursday, Nov. 21, officially stalled the filing period, which would’ve opened Dec. 2. The announcement comes as judges prepare to issue a ruling in the congressional redistricting case, Harper v. Lewis.
To avoid a delay in elections, judges will need to work things out in eight days, said Gerry Cohen, former special counsel to the N.C. General Assembly. If the state hasn’t settled on a new map by Dec. 10, the congressional primary will probably be pushed from March to May, he said.
Time must be managed according to several factors, including filing, details related to the presidential election, ballot printing, and absentee voting for the military and people overseas.
“There are lots of moving pieces,” Cohen said.
In late October, Superior Court Judges Paul Ridgeway, Alma Hinton, and Joseph Crosswhite issued a preliminary injunction in Harper v. Lewis, blocking the state from using its congressional map. While the judges didn’t issue an order to draw new districts, they strongly advised legislators to follow processes used to redraw legislative districts in September. In that case, Common Cause v. Lewis, the same three-judge panel struck down North Carolina’s legislative maps, ruling them unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. Redraw the maps, and do it transparently, judges said. Lawmakers were given two weeks and were barred from using political or racial data to draw the new districts. Cameras were used to broadcast the entire process.
In Harper v. Lewis, lawmakers repeated the performance and immediately redrew congressional districts. A new map was enacted Nov. 15.
The same day, plaintiffs filed a motion asking the court to review the new districts. Defendants also filed two motions: one for summary judgment and one to expedite the court’s ruling.
The court will hear arguments Dec. 2.
“I am confident the court will reject the challenges to these new maps, which were drawn in full public view without political data or partisan intent,” Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, senior chair of the House Redistricting Committee, told Carolina Journal Thursday afternoon. “It is important for all North Carolina voters to have the chance to cast their ballots at the scheduled March election.”
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