Voting rights advocates on Wednesday hailed a state Supreme Court order in North Carolina as a victory for democracy as the court cited the state’s gerrymandered district map as its reason for delaying the 2022 primaries by two months—but noted that the fight for a fair map is not over yet.
Following the court’s preliminary injunction, voters in North Carolina will go to the polls on May 17 instead of March 8 due to ongoing litigation over the new district map, which was drawn by Republican state lawmakers and was expected to give the GOP at least 10 safe seats in the U.S. House out of the state’s 14 seats.
“The fight continues but this is a very, very BIG step for democracy and fair maps in North Carolina,” tweeted Marc Elias, founder of Democracy Docket, which filed a lawsuit regarding the map.
🚨BREAKING: North Carolina Supreme Court BLOCKS candidate filing period until it resolves redistricting lawsuit against Republican gerrymandered maps.— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) December 8, 2021
The fight continues but this is a very, very BIG step for democracy and fair maps in North Carolina.https://t.co/xJgaggIP4o
In a state that’s fairly evenly split between Republican and Democratic voters and which former President Donald Trump won by just over one percentage point in 2020, critics say the district map should give Democrats the opportunity to win six or seven seats.
The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, which brought one of the cases that resulted in Wednesday’s ruling, welcomed the decision.
“We will continue going to bat for voters so they will vote under fair maps for elections next year and beyond,” Carrie Clark, the group’s executive director, told the News & Observer. “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.”
Following a 2019 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which said political gerrymandering is not unconstitutional, a North Carolina court overturned the state’s district map and ordered GOP legislators to draw a new one, resulting in the party’s current advantage.
The party divided up the state’s largest counties to dilute the voting power of Democrats—doing away with the seat held by Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning and leading another Democrat, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, to announce he would not seek reelection with the new districts in place.
The nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the state’s map an “F” grade, saying it gave Republicans a significant unfair advantage.
The state Supreme Court’s ruling “sends a clear message that North Carolinians deserve to cast their ballots in elections held in fair, constitutional voting districts,” Hilary Harris Klein of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which also filed a lawsuit over the map, told the New York Times.
The high court said it would hand down a final ruling regarding whether the maps have to be redrawn by January 11.
The justices said in their order that they saw a “need for urgency in reaching a final resolution” and mandated that any appeals that are filed after their final ruling should be heard on an accelerated timeline, signaling that the boundaries should be redrawn well before May if they are ruled unconstitutional.
Progressive advocacy group Carolina Forward said the ruling should serve as a reminder to voters to “not sleep on judicial races.”
These rigged maps will go to trial with the NC Supreme Court next month – and, if there’s any justice, be consumed in fire directly afterward.— Carolina Forward (@ForwardCarolina) December 8, 2021
Remember, folks – do not sleep on judicial races.https://t.co/BwlXR9vRtN #ncpol
“If the North Carolina GOP takes over the state Supreme Court, fair elections in North Carolina are over until someone dies or retires,” tweeted the group.