By Tim Gardner
United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts ruled last week that the state’s election districts will remain basically the same, according to Republican State Representative Josh Dobson, who serves the 85th District of Avery, Mitchell and McDowell counties.
North Carolina’s GOP lawmakers had requested an official Supreme Court stay concerning changing the districts for this year’s state elections, asking that the districts not undergo any changes.
Chief Justice Roberts did change districts affecting primarily the Piedmont county of Guilford and the Eastern counties of Bladen and Wayne, all of which are heavily-populated. But the Chief Justice left the remainder of the state’s districts intact. No mountain counties were affected with the ruling. However, the state’s prosecutorial district that includes Avery, Watauga, Mitchell, Yancey and Madison counties changed in number from the 24th to the 35th. Dobson declared the latest Supreme Court ruling “A victory for our state.”
Chief Justice Roberts had previously granted a stay for the Federal congressional races, allowing those original congressional districts to remain exactly as they were in the 2016 elections.
Dobson added he believes the Chief Justice’s rulings were the correct ones. “The GOP did not get to keep the state districts one hundred percent in place as they had been as a few counties had their districts altered. But I think our state’s Republicans were at least eighty percent successful in our quests and we were one hundred percent successful in our request that the Federal elections districts not change. With these rulings behind us–at least for awhile– all involved in the elections as candidates, voters and in other capacities can concentrate on this year’s elections and putting the best representatives in office on all levels.”
Before Chief Justice Roberts authorized a stay for the Federal elections, a three-judge panel had refused North Carolina Republican lawmakers’ request to block the use of new legislative district maps the judges had previously approved for this year’s federal and state elections. However, Republican lawmakers appealed the decision to the United State Supreme Court. The Federal elections ruling means North Carolina’s case probably won’t be resolved until later this year, increasing the likelihood that the current boundaries, where Republicans hold 10 of the state’s 13 congressional seats, will be used in the November general election.
Republican attorneys had argued that requiring a new map — the third since 2011 — would have confused voters and candidates.
Federal judges had previously ruled that North Carolina would have to redraw its congressional districts because the map is unconstitutionally partisan. The judges had mandated that lawmakers file a new plan with the court so it will be in place before the 2018 mid-term Federal and state elections. North Carolina voting has been nearly split along partisan lines in recent statewide elections.
The judges rejected arguments of the GOP’s lawyers that they had created a new racial gerrymandering test, and wrote that boundary changes are limited and can be implemented with minimal harm to the state or legislators.
Meanwhile, the voters who sued claimed legislative elections had been held in 2012, 2014 and 2016 in districts that the judges determined contained illegal racial gerrymanders.
The General Assembly is the legislature of North Carolina, consisting of a House and Senate. Republican lawmakers hold the majority in both houses giving them the ability to approve their conservative agenda and with enough members to override any vetoes by Democrat Governor Roy Cooper.