Candidate filing in North Carolina starts on December 2, but one group of candidates will not be able to file that day. A court order issued yesterday means that congressional candidates don’t know if they will be able to file the next day or sometime in 2020.
The same NC Superior Court judges that effectively threw out North Carolina’s congressional districts in a preliminary injunction in Harper v Lewis ordered a hold on congressional candidate filing. Instead, the court will hear several motions related to that hearing at 9:00 AM on December 2:
- Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment (a ruling without the need for a trial) against the previous maps. It is hard to imagine the court not dismissing this motion. The old districts are no longer in use and the court would have to pretend that the current districts do not exist in order to rule on the old ones. If the court did grant this motion, candidate filing would be delayed for several weeks as the General Assembly draws yet another set of districts and the court reviews them. Congressional primaries will be delayed.
- Legislative Defendants’ motion for summary judgment to dismiss the suit in Harper v Lewis because the drawing of new congressional districts makes the lawsuit moot. This is the most likely outcome since the new districts are different from old districts and the procedure for drawing the new districts was different than the procedure for drawing the old districts; you cannot get much more moot than that. If the court grants this motion, candidates can file as early as December 3 and the primaries will not be delayed.
- Plaintiffs’ motion for review of the new districts passed by the General Assembly. The court did not order new districts in its preliminary injunction (only suggesting that the General Assembly do so on its own accord). Given that the new districts and the procedures used to draw them are different from what the plaintiffs presented to the court, a review of the new districts would likely take at least several weeks, perhaps delaying candidate filing for months.
After the Harper v Lewis preliminary injunction that threw out the previous congressional districts, the General Assembly moved quickly to enact new districts. Those districts will likely result in an 8-5 split in favor of Republicans in most elections, a split that fits North Carolina’s political geography.
If the court grants either of the plaintiff’s motions, that judicial overreach would likely force the state to conduct special primaries for contested congressional races, reducing voter turnout and costing the state millions of dollars, a detriment to North Carolina voters and taxpayers.