Candidate filing for the 2022 primary elections will resume on Feb. 24, the North Carolina State Board of Elections announced last Tuesday.
This follows a delay spurred by a lawsuit filed against the state over its congressional maps. A panel of three North Carolina Superior Court judges ruled on Tuesday that the maps were constitutional.
"Despite our disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our State to ridicule, this Court must remind itself that these maps are the result of a democratic process," the ruling said.
The North Carolina Supreme Court announced the initial pause on candidate filing on Dec. 8. The court also changed the date of the 2022 primary from March 8 to May 17 and suspended filing for candidates for public offices until it ruled on the legality of the state’s congressional maps.
'Extreme partisan gerrymandering'
N.C. House Minority Leader Robert Reives said in an email that he supported the initial decision to delay primaries. He said it was a necessary step to ensure the courts had enough time to rule on the legality of North Carolina's congressional maps.
The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the state, said on its website that the state's maps were gerrymandered along partisan and racial lines.
Dustin Ingalls, director of strategic communications for the NCLCV, said in an email that the organization is appealing the decision to the state Supreme Court.
“... We’re confident they will agree with us that the extreme partisan gerrymandering will be recognized as a constitutional violation that must be remedied with new maps,” he said.
The state Supreme Court currently has a 4-3 Democratic majority.
Ingalls also said in an email that the NCLCV has provided the court with alternative maps.
"We have offered the court alternative maps for the U.S. House, state House, and state Senate which were drawn by a computer algorithm that satisfies nonpartisan districting criteria and doesn't favor one party over the other," he said.
J. Michael Bitzer, a professor of politics and history at Catawba College, said in an email that the Superior Court's ruling was similar to a 2019 Supreme Court case, Rucho v. Common Cause.
In the case, the Supreme Court said federal courts did not have the legal authority to rule on partisan gerrymandering cases.
“What we saw with this week’s opinion from the three-judge panel was basically picking up that federal decision and saying, it’s not for the state courts to decide, even though a state court in 2019 did say the 2016 maps were too much of partisan gerrymandering,” Bitzer said.
Multiple Democratic lawmakers expressed disappointment with Tuesday's ruling.
Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, a Democratic candidate for North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District, said in an email that partisan gerrymandering violates the fundamental right to vote.
She said North Carolina Republicans have used gerrymandering to target Black and brown voters specifically.
“The future of our democracy is at stake, and we need action at the federal level to guarantee our basic rights," Allam said. "The Senate must abolish the filibuster and pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act now, before it's too late.”
Reives said in an email that North Carolinians should have a fair and transparent redistricting process.
"... And they deserve to have representatives elected by the people, not representatives who pick their voters," he said.
Peter Boykin, a Republican candidate for North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District, said he would like to see permanent congressional maps — rather than constantly changing them.
Boykin also said creating smaller geographic districts to compensate for larger populations in cities would come at a cost.
“The problem is that you can’t just do that, because then you have all those other counties who are Republican, and then you end up with this giant 11-, 12-, 14-county (Republican district) and one representative trying to run all over this map,” Boykin said.
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