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North Carolina Supreme Court delays primaries over redistricting lawsuits

<i>Grant Baldwin/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Voters arrive at a polling place in Charlotte
AFP via Getty Images
Grant Baldwin/AFP/Getty Images
Voters arrive at a polling place in Charlotte

By Dianne Gallagher and Ethan Cohen, CNN

The North Carolina Supreme Court issued an order Wednesday that moves the state’s primary elections from March 2022 to May 2022, due to lawsuits over redistricting maps for congressional and state legislative districts.

The preliminary injunction also halts candidate filing, reversing an earlier state Court of Appeals ruling. Any candidate who has already successfully filed will remain valid. According to the State Board of Elections, more than 1,400 candidates had already filed for various offices.

The court order will move all of the state’s primary elections, not just the ones affected by the maps at the center of the lawsuit, from March 8 to May 17. North Carolina’s primaries had been among the earliest, but as legal challenges continue against maps around the country, it’s possible North Carolina’s won’t be the only ones delayed.

The court ordered the trial court to rule on the case by January 11, after which there’d be an expedited appeals process.

Opponents of the maps claim they’re gerrymanders that violate the state constitution.

North Carolina’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who didn’t play a role in the redistricting process, celebrated the ruling.

“Today’s order by the state Supreme Court restores faith in the rule of law and it is necessary for the Court to rule on the constitutionality of these unfair districts before the next election,” Cooper said in a statement.

The state Republican Party defended the GOP-passed maps and attacked the court.

“The Democrat majority on the N.C. Supreme Court, cloaked in secrecy, just blocked primary elections for hundreds of candidates who already filed to run for office,” the party said in a statement. “This just injected more chaos and confusion into elections at the direct expense of the people of North Carolina.”

Wednesday’s ruling is just the latest act in the Tar Heel State’s fraught recent redistricting history. Courts ordered new maps in both 2016 and 2019. In 2016, the proceedings resulted in the some primaries being delayed from March to June.

Other early primary states are facing litigation over their maps. Earlier this week, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit alleging that Texas’ new congressional map illegally discriminates against Latinos and Blacks. Texas’ March 1 primary is the only one scheduled to take pace earlier than North Carolina’s had been.

The primary process could also be delayed in some states with divided government, like Pennsylvania, where it’s expected that legislatures and governors will be unable to agree on maps and courts will need to take over.

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