North Carolina’s legal fight over its election map rapidly escalated Tuesday with the state asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case in hopes of protecting next month’s primary election. Lawyers for Gov. Pat McCrory and other state officials filed the emergency request no more than an hour after a three-judge federal panel refused to delay its order from last week that found two congressional districts, including one that runs through parts of Charlotte, unconstitutional. The judges have ordered the state to redraw the boundary for the 12th and 1st Districts by the end of next week. That’s about a month from the March 15 primary. State lawyers have argued that putting a new voting map in place at this late date will throw the election into disarray. That same argument, written partially in italics to convey the state’s sense of urgency, became the centerpiece of a 183-page motion to Chief Justice John Roberts late Tuesday. “This Court should stay enforcement of the judgment immediately,” the state argued.
“North Carolina’s election process started months ago. Thousands of absentee ballots have been distributed to voters who are filling them out and returning them. Hundreds of those ballots have already been voted and returned. The primary election day for hundreds of offices and thousands of candidates is less than 40 days away and, if the judgment is not stayed, it may have to be disrupted or delayed.”
U.S. District Judges William Osteen of Greensboro and Max Cogburn of Asheville along with U.S. Circuit Judge Roger Gregory of Virginia ruled Friday that the GOP-led legislature relied too heavily on race to draw the boundaries for the 12th and 1st Congressional Districts.
Tuesday, the judges refused to delay their ruling, which blocks the state from holding any more elections under the current voting lines and requires the state to submit a new election map by the end of next week. In a four-page answer released by Osteen late Tuesday afternoon, the judges said that the real victim in the case is not the state’s election plans but the voters who have been irreparably harmed by living within improperly drawn districts.