BY BRIAN MURPHY, LUCILLE SHERMAN, AND WILL DORAN UPDATED JANUARY 18, 2022 2:11 PM
North Carolina Senate Republicans plan on Wednesday to vote to postpone the state’s primary elections to June 7, citing ongoing litigation of the newly enacted redistricting maps. The state Supreme Court scheduled arguments in the redistricting case for Feb. 2. The court in December pushed back the primary from its original March 8 date to May 17, as part of an expedited hearing schedule for challenges to the redrawn maps. But Sen. Ralph Hise, a top Republican, said Monday that the current schedule “is an extremely short time frame that will cause unnecessary confusion and chaos.”
In court filings, the State Board of Elections said it would need final information on the new districts no later than Feb. 14 to 18, to accommodate a May 17 primary. If the initial primary date were moved back, it could impact the ability to hold runoff elections before the November general election. Republican lawmakers want to make sure they have time to redraw maps for the state Senate, state House and U.S. House if the N.C. Supreme Court — which has a 4-3 Democratic majority — orders them to be redrawn.
While the court can ask the legislature to redraw maps if the current ones are overturned, that’s not the only option. The court could also accept the replacement maps proposed by challengers in the case, or could hire an outside expert to do the work. “The Constitution of this state is very clear: It is the responsibility, it is the duty of the North Carolina General Assembly to redraw the districts in this state — not the court, not the governor, not anybody else,” House Speaker Tim Moore said last week. The House has scheduled a voting session for Wednesday afternoon. WHAT COOPER AND DEMOCRATS SAY Republicans passed the maps late last year without a single Democratic vote. The maps are expected to give the GOP a 10-4 or 11-3 majority in U.S. House seats and strong majorities in the state legislature. The maps are not subject to veto by the governor.
A bill changing the primary schedule would go to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk for his signature. Democrats throughout the state criticized the move Tuesday, suggesting that Republicans’ efforts to move the primary seem intended to pressure the Supreme Court into letting the legislature redraw the maps, if the maps are overturned, rather than the court hiring an outside expert to do it. “The three-judge panel during the trial has already found as fact that the maps drawn by Republicans are intentional, partisan gerrymanders,” Cooper spokesperson Jordan Monaghan said in an emailed statement. “The Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of these districts and legislators should avoid additional attempts to undermine the voting process.” The statement did not say whether Cooper intends to veto the bill.
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