North Carolina leaders filed an emergency appeal Monday to overturn a federal court order that threw out the boundaries of two congressional districts and injected major uncertainty into the state’s March 15 primary. The motion was filed with the same three federal judges who found portions of the state voting map unconstitutional on Friday. State Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Matthews, who helped draw the district lines, said voting is already underway and should not be undermined by the courts. The state called for a response from the court on Monday. “We trust the federal trial court was not aware an election was already underway and surely did not intend to throw our state into chaos by nullifying ballots that have already been sent out and votes that have already been cast,” Rucho said in a statement. Later Monday, the judges gave the plaintiffs in the case, including two from Mecklenburg County, until noon Tuesday to respond.
In a surprise decision Friday, the panel found that the 12th District, which runs from Charlotte to Greensboro, and the 1st District, which cuts east from Durham to Elizabeth City, were racially gerrymandered by Republican legislators to unlawfully dilute black votes. The judges gave the state two weeks to file different lines, a move that would also change the makeup of neighboring districts.
Given the state’s appeal, the federal court could now put its own ruling on hold, or the primary elections could be rescheduled. Legal experts say it’s more likely that the judges will refuse the state’s request to set their order aside. The state would then appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Legislative leaders advised their members Monday that Gov. Pat McCrory could call them into special session next week for several days, if they have to redraw the maps of the 1st and 12th congressional districts before the deadline or the election. However, a spokeswoman for Senate Leader Phil Berger said legislators “fully expect” a stay to be granted.