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LUMBERTON – Robeson County and the state electoral board will have to turn down primary candidates due to an order issued Wednesday by North Carolina’s highest court.
The state Supreme Court has suspended the filing of nominations for all positions for the 2022 primary elections and postponed the March elections for legislative, congressional and judicial seats in order to give state courts time to examine the lawsuits claiming that the Republican-controlled legislature had illegally gerrymandered certain districts.
The state’s Supreme Court ruling comes after a state Court of Appeals panel initially blocked filing for legislative and congressional nominations on Monday, only to have the ruling overturned when the court Intermediate Appeal Committee composed of 15 members was invited to vote on the matter. Filing started on Tuesday for these races instead.
Eighteen people have already applied for local elections, including Senator Danny Britt Jr.
“The Democratic-majority Supreme Court of the NC has made the secret decision to stop all filing for elections and move the primary to May,” Britt said in an emailed statement to The Robesonian. “This is in stark contrast to the way the legislature proceeded with the redistribution of constituencies. “
Britt said the process was “one of the most transparent in North Carolina history.”
“The maps were drawn in public view and distributed online,” he continued. “There is no reason to delay filing, especially for those who have come together to serve their communities and are not part of this case. The judges did not cancel any of our redistribution cards or order a new draw, but they did manage to confuse North Carolina voters and residents of my district. “
Britt, a Republic, filed for re-election for the District 13 Senate seat on Tuesday.
Representative Charles Graham, a Democrat, was “about” to run for the 9th Congressional District, currently occupied by Congressman Dan Bishop, when he heard the news. He told the Robesonian he was “relieved” by the court’s decision.
“I am relieved that the courts are reviewing the constitutionality of these gerrymandered districts,” Graham said. “I think this is good news for our citizens, and I have high hopes that next year our people in North Carolina and our citizens will have the opportunity to participate in an election that will be fair and effective. equal representation.
Graham said that while it may take some time to resolve this issue, it is not a big request to delay an election.
“It’s a setback, but at the end of the day we’re trying to fix something that needs to be fixed,” Graham said.
Graham said he had been involved in the district map debates for the past decade.
“It is just not fair for our citizens to be exposed to a guessing game about where they are supposed to vote or in which district they are voting. It’s a great opportunity to get it right because it’s a plan that will be in place for the next 10 years, ”Graham said.
North Carolina House President Tim Moore said, “I am deeply disappointed with the state Supreme Court’s decision to stop and further delay our electoral process which is already underway.
“Throwing this process into chaos in the midst of filing leaves North Carolinians in limbo ahead of the election. Despite this delay, we are confident that we will win in the trial and that our cards will be valid, ”Moore continued.
Republicans have controlled both the State House and Senate since 2011, allowing them to shape the redistribution over the past decade
In 2019, another three-judge panel said there was evidence that GOP lawmakers created extreme partisan gerrymanders when drawing US House Districts in 2016 and Legislative Districts in 2017. The legislature redesigned the cards in time for the 2020 election. But the panel’s statements were never confirmed on appeal.
Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, whose veto stamp cannot be used on redistribution cards, had urged in a court friend’s brief for the Supreme Court to intervene.
Wednesday’s order “restores faith in the rule of law,” Cooper said in a statement.
Postponing the election and halting filings will give Robeson County Election Commission staff more time to focus on other issues, said Tina Bledsoe, BOE Director for Robeson County. A postponed election is not a setback for the local office but an opportunity to catch up on other issues like having more time to consider the new redistribution lines, she said.
“We will check this out. It gives us a little more time for that, so I’m grateful for that, ”said Bledsoe.
Bledsoe’s office learned of the decision Wednesday night and determined that a May primary was welcome.
“I’ve been here for so long, we’ve always been used to having a primary in May,” Bledsoe said. “It might change our training schedule, but it just gives us a little more time to make sure the recut is correct.”
“A lot of our poll workers are seniors so I think that will make it a bit easier for them,” Bledsoe added. “I hope that having a primary in May it will be warmer, which will attract a large crowd of voters.”
The BOE office will issue an updated one-stop-shop voting schedule once more details are received.
“We know things are changing. We adapt and move forward, ”said Bledsoe. “We will be prepared and ready to go. We’ll be ready when they tell us to ride.
Wednesday’s order suspends all candidacy in the state until the dispute is resolved and delays the March 8 primary by two months. The Supreme Court said three trial judges hearing a pair of lawsuits are due to rule by January 11. The decision will then likely be appealed.
The delay is granted “in light of the broad public interest” in the case and “the urgent need to reach a final resolution … as soon as possible,” the order said.
The primary elections for the seat of the United States Senate of retired GOP Senator Richard Burr and the United States House, General Assembly and judicial seats, as well as elections for other local positions, will now be held May 17, according to the order.
The groups that filed the lawsuits – the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters and math experts in one case and voters backed by an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee in the other – said voters would be irrevocably harmed if voters elections were taking place under the lines.
The lawsuits claim that the legislature manipulated the boundaries based on the political leanings of voters, the racial makeup of voters, or both. In doing so, according to the lawsuits, lawmakers gave Republicans nearly unbreakable majorities in the state House and Senate and nearly secured victories in at least 10 of the 14 US House seats from the United States. 2022 elections. The state is closely divided in statewide elections.
Republicans hold eight of the current 13 seats in the House. North Carolina gets an additional seat due to population growth, so the partisan makeup of the delegation could affect whether the GOP returns to the United States House next year.
The groups that have filed the lawsuits want the courts to order the General Assembly to redraw the lines.
More than 1,400 people who, according to the State Board of Elections, had already filed across North Carolina this week will remain candidates for those same positions when they submit their resumes, unless they step down at that time. there, indicates the order. Nominations were scheduled to continue until noon on December 17.