NC officials ask US high court to block new-elections order

AP News
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Posted: Dec 30, 2016 5:45 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to stop an order that the lawmakers quickly redraw legislative boundaries and hold a special election for dozens of seats next fall.

Lawyers for North Carolina and its legislative leaders asked Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who considers emergency appeals from the region that includes North Carolina, to rule before the state Legislature convenes on Jan. 11.

State attorneys also want the high court to take over appeals from a three-judge panel in North Carolina.

That panel last summer decided 28 state House and Senate districts illegally diminished minority voting power, but decided it was too late to November's elections under new maps. The same judges ordered legislators to draw new boundaries by March and hold a November special election in the altered districts. That would cut in half the two-year terms legislators thought they were being elected to last month.

"When the newly elected General Assembly convenes," the state's attorneys wrote in their application, "it should be free to pursue the people's business, not forced to divert the precious first weeks to drawing maps based on the district court's idiosyncratic view of redistricting."

A delay in redrawing legislative maps is also justified because two other redistricting lawsuits involving congressional districts in North Carolina and state legislative districts in Virginia were argued before Supreme Court justices earlier this month. Rulings in those cases would result in new high court guidance about how far the race of voters should be considered when drawing district lines, North Carolina's attorneys wrote Friday.

Lawyers for voters who sued said in a court filing last week there's too much harm to the public to retain districts identified as racial gerrymanders until the next regular election in 2018. Lawmakers also haven't offered enough evidence to show they would win on appeal and merit a delay, voters' attorneys said.

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