North Carolina lawmakers asked the Supreme Court to stop a lower court order to redraw its congressional map ahead of the 2018 midterms, arguing that it could “hopelessly disrupt North Carolina’s upcoming congressional elections.”
In an emergency application, the Tar Heel State lawmakers focused on time constraints — as well as “multiple entirely novel theories” the lower court adopted in Tuesday’s ruling — that struck down the state’s 2016 congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.
The district court, which took months to issue an opinion in the case, gave the state just two weeks to redraw the map while the filing period for primary elections begins Feb. 12, the lawmakers state in the application. North Carolina is home to at least three congressional districts that could be competitive in November.
“If the 2018 election must proceed under a map other than the one that governed the 2016 congressional elections, then the Board of Elections needs lead time to assign voters to their new districts, potential candidates need lead time to evaluate the new map and make filing decisions, and voters need lead time to understand where they will be voting and for whom,” the application states.
The state’s request goes to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who can either act or, more likely, refer it to the full court.
The justices might be likely to put a hold on the lower court order because they are currently considering two other cases on partisan gerrymandering, including one about Wisconsin statehouse districts that is expected to determine whether maps can be challenged at all on the basis that they entrench a benefit to one political party over another.
The court heard oral arguments in October on the Wisconsin case and are expected to rule before the term ends in June. The justices also agreed in December to add a second partisan gerrymandering case about Maryland’s congressional districts.
The North Carolina lawmakers who filed the application are Sen. Robert Rucho and Rep. David Lewis, co-chairs of the Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting; Timothy K. Moore, speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives; and Philip E. Berger, president pro tempore of the North Carolina Senate.
The court has not weighed in on partisan gerrymandering in more than a decade, and the justices appeared to be sharply divided during oral arguments in the Wisconsin case.
The North Carolina case is Rucho et al. v. Common Cause et al., Docket No. 17A745. The Wisconsin case is Gill v. Whitford, Docket No. 16-1161, and the Maryland case is Benisek v. Lamone, Docket No. 17-333.
Simone Pathé contributed to this report.