State legislative leaders are giving U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts more reasons to back their request for emergency Supreme Court action on North Carolina’s disputed congressional map.
“The Elections Clause of the United States Constitution … provides that ‘The Times, Places, and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.’ Absent prompt action by this Court, North Carolina’s 2022 congressional elections will be conducted in defiance of this constitutional command,” according to a brief filed Thursday by Republican legislative leaders.
“That is because the courts of North Carolina have not once but twice invalidated the congressional maps drawn by the North Carolina General Assembly and have now replaced them with their own judicially preferred map,” the brief continued.
The new court filing arrives a day after plaintiffs in North Carolina’s legal fight over election maps urged the U.S. Supreme Court to stay out of the dispute. Plaintiffs argue that the high court would be ignoring precedent. They say the justices would be interfering with state courts’ interpretation of the N.C. Constitution.
Lawyers working for Democratic N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein also oppose action from the U.S. Supreme Court. Stein’s N.C. Justice Department lawyers represent the State Board of Elections in the case.
“Respondents insist that immediate action by this Court enforcing the plain meaning of the Elections Clause will sow chaos both in the administration of North Carolina’s 2022 congressional elections and in the broader jurisprudence of elections law in this country. Neither contention has merit,” according to legislators’ new brief.
Lawmakers dispute the argument that U.S. Supreme Court involvement in the case would endanger North Carolina’s May 17 primary date.
“While the State Board [of Elections] informed the North Carolina courts that it would be ‘preferable’ for candidate filing for the primary to close on March 4, it indicated that if necessary the primary could be administered with a filing deadline as late as March 15,” according to the legislators’ brief. “What is more, the General Assembly remains in session to address any implementation issues that could be created by a decision of this Court. Indeed, the General Assembly already passed a bill delaying the primary to June 7, only to be met with a gubernatorial veto.”
“This Court should not allow the Governor’s veto coupled with the state courts’ pursuit of a course of action carefully timed to run out the clock on the deadlines asserted by the executive branch to preclude review in this case.”
Legislators also push back against the argument that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling would force sweeping changes in election law nationwide.
“All the Court need hold to rule in Applicants’ favor is that the Elections Clause does not allow a state court to usurp the General Assembly’s authority under that provision by seizing upon an abstract and broadly worded provision of the state’s constitution … to impose its own policy determinations,” according to the brief.
Even if Roberts and his Supreme Court colleagues decide not to block the court-drawn map for the 2022 election, the case doesn’t have to end.
“While an immediate stay is needed to prevent the grave and irreparable harm that the actions of the courts below will inflict this congressional cycle, even absent a stay a live dispute would remain as this issue will recur in future election cycles,” legislative leaders argued. “Indeed, a ruling reversing the North Carolina Supreme Court’s judgment invalidating the General Assembly’s original congressional map would reinstate that map for future cycles.”
There’s no deadline for a ruling from Roberts. He can act on his own or refer the request to the full nine-member U.S. Supreme Court for consideration.