Supreme Court Stays North Carolina Redistricting Decision

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on January 13, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Supreme Court on Tuesday acted to stay an order that would have required North Carolina to redraw its state legislative districts by March 15th and hold special elections in the fall. That order, issued by a three-judge federal district court in November, came after the panel found that the state's legislative districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.

But that's not the only North Carolina redistricting issue before the Court right now. Just a few weeks earlier, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case challenging two federal districts that have been described by a district court as a "textbook example of racial gerrymandering."

Staying State Redistricting

The redistricting order came after the district court found last summer that the state legislative districts where impermissibly gerrymandered in order to reduce the electoral impact of minorities. Right before the November elections, that same panel ordered the state legislature to redraw those districts by March, then to hold a special election afterwards.

North Carolina filed an emergency motion with Chief Justice Roberts, asking the Court to stay the order and arguing that requiring the redistricting and quick new elections would impermissibly interfere with the state legislature. The Court agreed, staying the order until state officials can file, and the Supreme Court can act on, a petition for cert.

Holding for Future Precedent?

The move comes just after the Supreme Court heard arguments in a challenge to North Carolina's federal congressional districts. Those same districts have been involved in four earlier racial gerrymandering cases. By the fifth time they came before the Court, the Court seemed, according to SCOTUSblog's Amy Howe, ready to be done with the whole thing.

But, according to the Election Law Blog, the Court may be staying cases while it waits to see what sort of future precedent (forecedent?) might arise from the federal district case and a similar dispute out of Virginia. Rick Hansen writes:

It seems quite possible that the Court holds all the other cases raising this same issue until those NC and VA cases are resolved.

In the meantime, North Carolina's state redistricting and special elections are on hold, for now.

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