Justice delayed will not become justice denied again for North Carolina’s voters. Last Wednesday, the North Carolina Supreme Court told politicians their grossly gerrymandered maps must pass through a constitutional review — this time before they are used, not after. As a result, all 2022 primaries in North Carolina have been delayed from March 8 until May 17. Candidate filing has also been put on hold until after the map challenges have been heard and decided.
The state’s highest court ordered the three-judge Superior Court panel hearing our lawsuit challenging those maps to issue its decision no later than January 11. Dissatisfied parties will then have just two days to make their appeals directly to the Supreme Court, which will consider them expeditiously.
“In light of the great public interest in the subject matter of these cases, the importance of the issues to the constitutional jurisprudence of this state and the need for urgency in reaching a final resolution on the merits at the earliest possible opportunity, the court grants a preliminary injunction and temporarily stays the candidate-filing period for the 2022 elections for all offices until such time as a final judgment on the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims, including any appeals, is entered and a remedy, if any is required, has been ordered,” the court said in its order.
That decision “will allow voters to be heard in court and to hopefully establish once and for all that our state constitution forbids partisan gerrymandering,” said our Executive Director Carrie Clark. “We will continue going to bat for voters so they will vote under fair maps for elections next year and beyond. This is the only way our people will get a General Assembly and congressional delegation that protect every North Carolinian’s right to clean air, clean water, and clean energy.”
Not only are those rights deserved and desired by voters across the partisan spectrum, but so are fair maps, according to recent polling showing even Republicans oppose the legislature’s gerrymandering.
Following the order, Gov. Roy Cooper released a statement commending the court’s decision: “Today’s order by the state Supreme Court restores faith in the rule of law and it is necessary for the Court to rule on the constitutionality of these unfair districts before the next election.”
Attorney General Josh Stein, who last week joined Gov. Cooper in an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to take just this action, said, “I’m gratified the NC Supreme Court is ensuring that North Carolina’s legislative maps will be scrutinized and are fair. Partisan gerrymandering strikes at the heart of our representative democracy. People should choose their elected officials, not the other way around.”
In its order, the court clarified that candidates who put their names on the ballot before filing was suspended on December 8 will be treated as filed candidates in the May primaries once the filing period is reopened.