The U.S. Supreme Court should step in to halt a lower court’s partisan gerrymandering ruling in North Carolina because of an “eleventh-hour disruption,” according to an emergency document filed Friday.
The U.S. District Court this week struck down the state’s 2016 congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. It also ordered that lawmakers redraw the map within two weeks and stated that it intends to appoint a special master to draw an alternate in case their plan does not pass muster.
The 200-plus page court order cites lawmakers’ overt partisan intent as the foundation for violations of the Equal Protections Clause, the First Amendment and Article I of the U.S. Constitution.
Lawmakers took issue in the emergency application for stay with both the three-judge panel’s “theories of partisan gerrymandering” and their decision to hire a special master at the same time they ordered the legislature to redraw the map.
“In sum, the three-judge panel has used an entirely novel legal theory to hopelessly disrupt North Carolina’s upcoming congressional elections,” the document states.
The majority opinion was written by Judge James Wynn, a President Barack Obama appointee, and joined by Judge Earl Britt, appointed by Jimmy Carter. Judge William Osteen, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.
They contend that the decision is “all the more problematic because it will inevitably interfere with North Carolina’s congressional election cycle.” Candidate filing opens Feb. 12 and runs through the end of the month.
“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 to time 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 motion states.
Lawmakers suggest that the more “sensible course” is to stay the federal court’s decision until the U.S. Supreme Court makes its decision in a separate partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin, Gill v. Whitford. The Gill decision could have sweeping consequences for redistricting processes across the nation.
They request a ruling from the highest court by Jan. 22. You can read the full motion below.