State officials in North Carolina were told by the Supreme Court to halt redrawing of their congressional maps pending a case for appeal.
New maps were to be drawn by the end of the month following a lower court order. But that order was blocked by the Supreme Court after state officials filed an appeal, The Hill reported.
With the filing period for primary elections set to open on February 12, North Carolina Republicans accused the federal district court of disrupting congressional elections and requested an emergency stay last week.
The state’s General Assembly “enacted the plan with the intent of discriminating against voters who favored non-Republican candidates,” Judge James Wynn, one of a three-judge panel on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina said in the majority opinion., according to The Hill. He ordered a new map to be drawn by Jan. 24.
But Appellate lawyer Paul Clement argued that 14 days to draw up new maps was highly disruptive.
“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,” he said. “But a stay is all the more appropriate because this Court is presently considering two partisan gerrymandering cases.”
According to The Hill:
The cases could determine the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering and set a new standard for determining when states have crossed the line and drawn districts to increase the political power of one party over another.
Common Cause, which challenged the maps along with the League of Women Voters, shot back in briefs, claiming the true motive of state officials is to ensure a Republican partisan advantage in North Carolina’s congressional delegation.
“Applicants pay lip service to concerns such as State sovereignty and administrative inconvenience. But their true motive is as plain as day: the Republican contingent of the legislature wants to enjoy the fruits of their grossly unconstitutional actions for yet another election cycle,” the group’s attorneys wrote. “That is not a proper reason to seek a stay, let alone grant one.”
Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented, saying they would have denied the lawmakers’ request.
For now, the stay means congressional district lines that gave Republicans 10 of the 13 House seats in the 2016 election will stay intact.
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