RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) – Voters in North Carolina filed an emergency motion Wednesday asking a state court to order that election districts crafted by a court-appointed special master be put into effect in time for upcoming state elections.
The plaintiffs, who are represented by Edwin Speas Jr., of Poyner Spruill LLP, in Raleigh, and Allison Riggs, of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, of Durham, N.C., made their appeal to a three-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court less than 24 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a mixed ruling in the case.
The justices said Tuesday that new election districts drawn by the special master, Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily, to remedy racial gerrymanders must be used in all upcoming elections, but temporarily blocked other districts in two counties that the special master drew to remedy alleged political gerrymanders.
Republican lawmakers contend the maps for state House and Senate district drawn after the last census are entirely legal now that alleged racial gerrymanders have been addressed and don’t need to be altered further.
But Democrats are challenging the validity of district in counties encompassing the cities of Charlotte Raleigh on the grounds that they were intentionally drawn to perpetuate GOP control on the state legislature.
That case is scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court later this year, and the outcome is expected to be noteworthy as the court has never before weighed in on the issue of gerrymandering challenged on purely political grounds.
As it stands now, the Supreme Court-mandated map will be used when the state’s candidate filing period opens on Monday, February 12. The filing period closes on Feb. 28, and state primary elections are currently scheduled to be held on May 8.
In the emergency motion filed Wednesday, the plaintiffs claim the districts the Supreme Court placed in limbo, four in Wake County and one in Mecklenburg County, violate the state constitution’s prohibition on mid-decade redistricting.
They contend that as a result of the Supreme Court remand order, the three-judge county in wake Count is “adequately positioned to rule immediately on … remedial issues and order into effect a map that respects the state constitution.”
“Though significant election deadlines are rapidly approaching, there is still time for this Court to act to ensure the Joint Plaintiffs are finally afforded a full measure of justice,” the motion says.
The plaintiffs are asking the three-judge panel to declare that the five state House districts at issue immediately be declared in violation of the state constitution and order that the special master’s alternative districts be used during the 2018 election cycle.
“Given the exigent circumstance of the upcoming elections” the plaintiffs say, they are willing to defer proceedings with respect to other state legislative districts they are challenging on the basis of their violating the so-called “whole county provision” of the constitution that says states should avoid splitting up counties as they draw election district lines.
In the wake of Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Riggs, senior counsel for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, told Courthouse News “the voters deserve a fully remedial plan in time for the election in November and we know how to do it.”
“We don’t need to draw a new map, we just need a state court to say yes,” she said.
But state Republican lawmakers are firing back, claiming the Democrats are trying to “sue until North Carolina is blue.”
“These liberal dark money groups financed and controlled by allies of the Democratic party are determined to use and abuse the court system to achieve unprecedented chaos,” said North Carolina Rep. David Lewis during a news conference on Wednesday. “In short, it appears that they will sue until North Carolina is blue despite what the people, despite what the voters want.”