A three-judge panel presiding over the redistricting lawsuit in Greensboro has ruled that the case will move forward to trial in April while the 2016 elections cycle continues on schedule, with candidate filing opening on December 1 and primaries to take place in March.
The parties in Covington v. North Carolina — a lawsuit filed in May that challenges many of the same districts at issue in the state case pending once again in state Supreme Court (Dickson v. Rucho) — appeared before Fourth Circuit Judge James A. Wynn, Jr. and federal district court judges Thomas Schroeder and Catherine Eagles last Monday on requests for relief.
The parties contesting the voting maps had asked the court to stay all election proceedings in 25 challenged districts until a final decision on the merits of the case.
The state, on the other hand, had asked the court to put off all proceedings in the case while the state Supreme Court continued its review in the Dickson case.
The judges denied both requests.
As to the state’s request, the judges noted that generally federal courts have a duty to decide cases over which they have jurisdiction without regard to pending parallel state proceedings, and ruled that no facts had been established that warranted deviating from that rule.
And as to the redistricting challengers, the judges noted that although the plaintiffs may very well prevail on their claims at trial, courts do not take disrupting elections lightly. Here, plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of a few dozen districts, while the 2016 election cycle includes contests for 170 Senate and House seats. And as plaintiffs conceded, “for all practical purposes, enjoining filing for the challenged districts would have the collateral effect of delaying the election cycle for all Senate and House seats and likely result in primaries in July 2016 at the earliest.”
Read the court’s full order here.