Judges deciding when North Carolina must redraw its state legislative districts will hear Thursday from voting rights activists calling for special elections and Republican lawmakers urging a slower pace. Democrats are hoping new electoral maps will help erode the GOP’s veto-proof majorities in the General Assembly and give first-term Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper a stronger hand. Districts must be redrawn after the federal court ruled 28 House and Senate districts are illegally race-based. That ruling was upheld this year by the U.S. Supreme Court, which returned the case to U.S. District Court to decide the next steps. The plaintiffs are seeking a special election before next year’s legislative session, while GOP lawmakers argue they should have until later this year to draw new maps for use in 2018’s regularly scheduled elections. They will present their cases Thursday to a panel of three federal judges in Greensboro.
Lawyers for the state’s Republican legislative leaders argued in a court filing earlier this month that it “would make no sense to artificially constrain this remedial process by ordering the General Assembly to proceed on an overly expedited schedule.” Such a pace, they say, would reduce public transparency.
Further, they argue, the U.S. Supreme Court has strongly signaled that special elections aren’t warranted. The federal court had previously told the state to hold special legislative elections in 2017, but the Supreme Court rejected that timetable. The ruling left the door open for the lower court to again order a special election, but time is dwindling.