Legislative leaders urge court to avoid NC special election

Published 3:57 pm Friday, July 7, 2017

RALEIGH — North Carolina Republican legislative leaders are re-affirming opposition to a special election this fall or winter for General Assembly seats, but say they’re prepared to redraw districts for the scheduled November 2018 election.

The lawmakers’ attorneys responded Thursday to a Greensboro federal court seeking input about what to do after last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Justices agreed nearly 30 districts are racial gerrymanders and should be thrown out. But the high court rejected the Greensboro court’s order for a special election and wrote more work was needed evaluating whether it’s necessary.

The GOP leaders say they’ve already laid out a schedule to draw new maps by this November. They say accelerating the timetable could short-circuit public and legislative feedback on maps and could prevent orderly elections.

“Any court-ordered special election would almost certainly require a reduction in the voting opportunities and mechanisms that voters have come to expect and increase the potential for election errors,” wrote Phil Strach, an attorney for the GOP lawmakers.

The state of North Carolina and State Board of Elections also their filed own statement in U.S. District Court late Thursday. The state takes no position on whether a special election is warranted or on a preferred schedule for map drawing, Special Deputy Attorney General Alexander Peters wrote, but a prompt decision would best serve the public interest.

The plaintiffs for voters who sued successfully over the maps last month urged the court to again order a special election later this year, saying it’s feasible. The illegal boundaries have burdened millions of voters since they were first drawn in 2011 and need to be replaced, the voters’ lawyers said.