(WGHP) — Groundhog Day will be the next big date when the sun will shine on the redistricting case being argued in North Carolina.
The state Supreme Court on Friday set 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 2 for a virtual hearing for oral arguments in the cases challenging the district lines approved in November by the General Assembly for 14 congressional districts and the state House and Senate.
Earlier this week, a three-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court had upheld the maps against complaints that the maps were an extreme partisan gerrymander to protect and expand the power of Republicans in a sharply divided state.
The order issued Friday came on the appeals filed by the North Carolina League of Conservation Partners et al and Common Cause and a group of complainants under the name Rebecca Harper et al.
The court order requires the appellants’ briefs to be filed by Jan. 21, with responses by Jan. 28 and any further items by Jan. 31.
The court in December had delayed the primary election from March to May 17 and postponed candidate filing in all races until this matter was decided.
The judges in Wake County issued an order that resumed candidate filing on Feb. 26.
In upholding the maps, the judges issued a 258-page ruling that was complicated in its explanation.
“Declaring as unconstitutional, an act of the branch of government that represents the people is a task that is not to be taken lightly. There is a strong presumption that enactments of the General Assembly are constitutional,” the ruling stated.
At issue are the lines for 14 congressional districts that the plaintiffs argue would expand the GOP’s advantage to at least 10-4 and maybe 11-3. State districts, they argue, may return Republicans to a veto-proof supermajority they formerly had.
Voter registration statewide is measurably more Democratic than Republican, with a sizeable slice of unaffiliated voters, and Donald Trump twice carried the state with slightly less than 50% of the vote. The GOP has an 8-5 congressional edge now, and the census added a new district, which required significant changes to the maps.
All metropolitan areas are affected significantly by the new maps the General Assembly adopted on Nov. 5, but Guilford County and Winston-Salem are perhaps the most affected. Those areas now comprise the 6th Congressional District, but the new maps split them into four districts.
Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro), who now serves in the 6th District, and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk), who represents the 5th District, are “double-bunked” in the new 11th District that stretches along the Virginia border to Ashe County and then down to Caldwell County. Small portions of Watauga County are included, ostensibly to allow for Foxx’s home to be in that district, although residence is not required for congressional districts.
Foxx announced in November she would run in the 11th, but Manning has made no announcement about her plans.
Winston-Salem would be included with all of Forsyth County in the 12th District, where Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-Denver) are considered the incumbents.
Budd is running for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Richard Burr.
Guilford County also would be parts of the 10th District, with the High Point area joining some of Davidson and Iredell counties and all of Davie, Rowan and Cabarrus counties. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord) is the incumbent.
The wild card is the newly drawn 7th Congressional District, which includes eastern Guilford and Davidson counties and all of Alamance, Randolph, Chatham and Lee counties and a small portion of Wake County.
There is no incumbent in that district, but several candidates have announced intentions to run (some filed paperwork before the process was stopped).