Candidates for the House and state Legislature were briefly blocked from filing for office in North Carolina and then allowed to proceed amid a judicial tussle over consideration of whether new Republican-drawn districts are constitutional.
On Monday, the North Carolina Court of Appeals temporarily blocked candidates from filing forms to run in the 2022 midterm elections in new districts on a map drawn by Republican state lawmakers that is the subject of litigation.
A panel originally blocked candidates from filing when the window to do so opened. But later on Monday, the full court voted to overrule the original panel, permitting filing Tuesday.
A majority of judges indicated they want the court to hear the case in full rather than leave it to a panel, but they have not yet set a date to do so.
A lawsuit filed by the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters alleged the new districts are unconstitutionally gerrymandered. The lawsuit is one of multiple legal challenges to the map.
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In an email obtained by WRAL, Paul Cox, associate general counsel for the State Board of Elections, told local elections directors that the court “issued an order temporarily suspending filing for congressional and legislative offices."
"By order of the court, the county boards may not file candidates for State House and State Senate until further notice," Cox wrote. "Likewise, the State Board may not file candidates for U.S. House until further notice."
Filing for other local races continued as scheduled.
State Sen. Paul Newton, a Republican redistricting official, criticized the ruling on Twitter, writing, “A secret panel of three unidentified Court of Appeals judges was able to review nearly 1,000 pages challenging maps of 184 districts, read the entire ‘record,’ and block candidate filing in every county in the state.”
In less than three hours, a secret panel of three unidentified Court of Appeals judges was able to review nearly 1,000 pages challenging maps of 184 districts, read the entire “record,” and block candidate filing in every county in the state. #ncpol— Senator Paul Newton (@SenPaulNewton) December 6, 2021
Critics of the new map said the changes from the state’s redistricting process resulted in partisan and racial gerrymandering, which will disadvantage minority voters and grow the state’s share of Republicans in its congressional delegation.
One critic of the new map was Rep. G. K. Butterfield, a longtime Democratic lawmaker whose district became much friendlier to Republicans after the redistricting process. He announced last month he will retire at the end of his term, citing what he called the “racially gerrymandered” map as a factor.
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North Carolina will gain a congressional seat next year after the 2020 census found population growth in the state. The new map will likely leave at least 10 of those 14 seats in Republican control. The current 13-seat delegation includes eight Republicans and five Democrats.
North Carolina is not the only state facing legal challenges to its new congressional maps. The Justice Department on Monday sued Texas arguing that its map discriminates against minority voters.