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U.S. Supreme Court sides with legislators in racial gerrymandering debate, declines to speed up process

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a request [1] to speed up the process for which a lower court can take over the most recent North Carolina racial gerrymandering case.

The order in North Carolina v. Covington [2], which does not state a reason for the denial, was posted late Thursday.

Not long after, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger bragged about it in two Tweets.

“#BREAKING: Pleased #SCOTUS rejected latest step in left’s scheme to force a special #NCGA election in 2017, nullify 2016 votes #NCPOL (1/2),” he stated. “#NCGA stands ready, willing to enact new redistricting plan in time for already scheduled 2018 elections. #NCPOL (2/2)”

The Supreme Court affirmed last week [3] the lower court’s finding that 28 state House and Senate legislative districts were unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered. It sent back to the lower court for further proceedings an order for special elections as a remedy to the violation.

Attorneys for Sandra Little Covington, et. al., had requested the highest court expedite [4] the process at which it transfers jurisdiction back to the lower court, which would both direct legislators in creating new maps and decide whether special elections would be held this year or not.

They said legislators were trying to win by default by running out the clock with delays.

The state of North Carolina agreed to their request, the State Board of Elections took no position and legislators opposed it, saying it wouldn’t be fair and would set bad precedent if they didn’t get the typical 25 days to consider filing for a rehearing of the case, despite making no indication that they would actually do that.

This move means that there likely won’t be time [5] for special elections this year, no matter what the lower court orders.

Gov. Roy Cooper earlier this week called for special elections. Civil rights groups and democracy advocates also gathered at the legislature [6] this week to rally for special elections.