The U.S. Supreme Court has added more confusion to North Carolina’s election picture — agreeing to block a lower court’s ruling in legislative redistricting affecting the state’s two largest counties.
Justices split three ways on how to proceed in the case.
A three-paragraph order handed down 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.”
It affects no other part of the three-judge panel’s order. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the General Assembly’s request completely and allowed the three-judge panel’s order to proceed.
Meanwhile, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas would have blocked the three-judge panel’s order in its entirety.
That means the other five justices, a bare-minimum majority, endorsed the partial stay.
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.
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).
Candidate filing is scheduled to open next week for all legislative races unaffected by the Supreme Court’s stay.