News: Quick Takes

Candidates for elected office preparing to file Feb. 12, as scheduled

UPDATE: This story was updated 6:52 p.m. Wednesday, February 7, with additional comment from Gannon.

With the exception of Wake and Mecklenburg counties, candidates for most offices in North Carolina — legislative and congressional — will file during the upcoming filing period, without changes, says State Board of Elections spokesman Patrick Gannon.

A three-paragraph order handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, Feb. 6, partially grants the N.C. General Assembly’s request for a stay of a three-judge panel’s order modifying the state’s new 2017 N.C. House and Senate election maps.

But the stay affects only “revision of House districts in Wake County and Mecklenburg County.”

The three-judge panel used a map prepared by “special master” Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford University law professor, to modify nine of the 170 state House and Senate districts drawn last summer by the Republican-led General Assembly.

Candidates in Wake and Mecklenburg will follow maps drawn by the Republican-dominated General Assembly last year.

Lawmakers had prepared 2017 maps in response to the panel’s earlier order throwing out election maps used from 2012 through 2016. The judges had ruled that 28 of the districts in those original maps violated constitutional protections against racial gerrymandering.

The Supreme Court’s ruling means that the special master’s revisions can move forward for N.C. Senate Districts 21 (Hoke and Cumberland counties) and 28 (Guilford) and House Districts 21 (Sampson and Wayne) and 57 (Guilford).

But the courts will probably still have the final say on how the coming elections play out. On Wednesday, Feb. 7, the plaintiffs in Dickson v. Rucho filed a motion for emergency relief. They’re asking a three-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court to use configurations designed by the special master, “which do not violate the state constitutional prohibition on mid-decade redistricting,” and not to use the General Assembly’s map.

County boards of elections can conduct business, including the 22 counties with two members — as usual.

“That’s been that way for a while now,” Gannon said.

The state’s 78 other counties have three board members.

Regarding the state’s congressional districts, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request to speed up review of the lawsuit linked to North Carolina’s 2016 congressional election map. In a two-sentence order, justices agreed 7-2 to deny a motion from plaintiff Common Cause. The left-of-center advocacy group wanted the Supreme Court to grant “an expedited briefing and oral argument schedule” in the case. Candidate filing opens next week for the 13 U.S. House seats covered by the map.

Candidates for most offices will file during the Feb. 12-28 filing period. District Court and Superior Court candidates will file from June 18-29. Soil and water candidates file from June 11 to July 6.

“We understand voters’ confusion as the redistricting cases work their way through the courts,” Gannon said in a statement. “The ‘Voter Lookup’ tool on our website, www.ncsbe.gov, will be updated as soon as possible to reflect any changes to districts. As always, we will post sample ballots for every registered voter on our website well before the May primary.”