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Court halts candidate filing in North Carolina

Primary set for March 8 was one of the first using new maps

Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., announced he would retire after the state adopted a new district map.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., announced he would retire after the state adopted a new district map. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A North Carolina state appeals court stopped the process for candidates to file for next year’s congressional and state legislative elections using new district lines, the state board of elections said Monday.

According to state law, candidate filing was to begin Monday and run through Dec. 17 in advance of the state’s March 8 primary. After Texas on March 1, North Carolina will be the second state to hold primaries using new congressional maps.

A notice released by the state board of elections said that a North Carolina court of appeals had ordered the indefinite halt of candidate filing. Representatives from the state board could not be immediately reached for comment Monday. 

State court records indicated the court granted a temporary stay until Thursday in response to an appeal made by the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, arguing the new maps constituted an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Multiple challenges

The appeal follows a Friday decision in the case, where a three-judge panel argued the judiciary did not have the ability to weigh in on partisan gerrymandering.

On Monday, Democratic-backed groups separately asked the state Supreme Court to temporarily halt the implementation of the new district maps. That suit also argues the new maps violate state law by giving Republicans an advantage.

“The 2021 plan, by design, ensures that the will of North Carolina voters will never truthfully be reflected in the state’s congressional delegation,” Monday’s filing said.

Challengers argued that Republicans would likely win 10 or 11 of the state’s 14 congressional seats in a state former President Donald Trump won by 1 percentage point in 2020.

North Carolina’s legislature finalized its map last month amid accusations it diluted the power of minority voters and favored Republicans. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., announced his retirement shortly after state officials finalized the map, calling the plan “racially gerrymandered.”

Butterfield’s district had been 44 percent Black and 9 percent Hispanic, but would be less than 40 percent Black in the new map. The district would also likely be more competitive with rural areas in the north of the state.

The map received an “F” grade from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, which argued the map created significant Republican advantages in the state. 

Map redrawn in 2019

Last month, a state judge denied a separate request to delay the state’s primary amid a challenge to its process for drawing the districts.

In 2019, litigants in North Carolina successfully challenged the state’s congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander under state law, resulting in a court-directed redraw before the 2020 election. That November, Democrats won five of the state’s 13 seats. After North Carolina gained a seat through reapportionment and districts were redrawn by the Republican-dominated legislature, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project estimated Democrats could win four of 14 seats next year.

Litigation has scrambled elections in prior cycles for other states as well. A federal court ordered a delay to Texas’ congressional primary in 2012 because of a lawsuit alleging the state’s new congressional map diluted the power of minority voters.

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