RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – The plaintiffs whose lawsuit brought about the new election maps under which candidates this week have been filing for office sent their responses Wednesday to the objection that Republican state legislators filed with the United States Supreme Court.
Last Friday House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) et al asked the Supreme Court to overturn the congressional map approved last week by a 3-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court, saying that court had no right to draw a map, that it was the purview of the General Assembly, as established by the North Carolina Constitution.
That Republican-majority panel in Wake County employed three former judges as special masters to review remedial maps that the state Supreme Court had ordered to be drawn because legislators original maps for congress and the General Assembly were judged to be unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders designed to insulate if not expand Republicans’ control in Washington and Raleigh.
The special masters approved the maps lawmakers drew for the state House and Senate but “modified” the map for congress, citing in their ruling that lawmakers were responsible to draw the maps and they simply adjusted some districts. All those maps were appealed by all parties – the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, Common Cause, a Harper et al group of voters (the three plaintiffs) – and Republicans in the General Assembly.
The state Supreme Court rejected those appeals last week, enacted the maps, and candidate resumed filing for office on Friday. Hundreds have submitted their paperwork for everything from U.S. Senate to municipal races.
The federal suit filed by lawmakers asked the justices to intervene and halt the election process. Candidate filing ends at noon on Friday, and the primary is scheduled for May 17. The court could issue a ruling as soon as today.
All three plaintiffs in the matter submitted motions to argue against the suit filed by lawmakers. Each has a slightly different approach and sites different cases, but all focus on precedent from various federal rulings and the timing of this consideration so late in the election calendar.
The 52-page response submitted the NCLCV opened with an argument that observers might have expected: To accept this case and rule in favor of legislators, the court would have to upend “at least a half dozen of its decisions, spanning a century,” most recently a judgment last month involving the Alabama elections in which justices overturned a lower court because they said it was too deep in the election cycle.
Common Cause and the Harper plaintiffs both led with Rucho v. Common Cause, in which in 2019 the Supreme Court upheld North Carolina’s then new electoral map and stated that such matters were the purview of state courts.
Each response includes many prior rulings by SCOUTUS on matters related to states controlling their own gerrymandering decisions. Courts in various states have been involved recently with attempting to remedy such issues, and a similar appeal from Pennsylvania was filed with SCOTUS last week, too. In all NCLCV’s response cites some 62 prior suits, most notably Gore v. Bush and Nixon v. United States.
NCLCV’s response boils down to three elements: that the delayed appeal to the court was a disruption to the election filing process and schedule, that any arguments about the Elections Cause were ineffective and without merit and that to accept this argument by the legislators would require the court to overturn many decisions it already had enacted and thus change processes in states across the nation.
Common Cause also says that the legislators’ argument was too late and without legal basis. The Harper group also says that orders written by the General Assembly grants the courts the right to review redistricting and that the Scotus has set precedent numerous times.