Pardon Our Dust
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The General Assembly was not in session this week. In today’s newsletter we provide a comprehensive rundown of the redistricting process and ongoing litigation over the legislative and Congressional district maps recently adopted by the General Assembly.
Following the appearance of the first confirmed case of the omicron variant, COVID cases have continued to rise. As of this morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 4,165 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. There are 1,604 individuals hospitalized, and sadly, 19,099 confirmed deaths. 73% of the total adult population has been vaccinated.
As we all continue to feel the effects of the global pandemic and adjust to a new normal, we want to highlight a few ways our clients across North Carolina have worked to support residents and make this time a little easier for those throughout the state. Read more about what our clients are doing to help by clicking here.
For more information on COVID-19 in North Carolina, click here to visit the Department of Health and Human Services website, and be sure to stay up to date on the latest federal guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by clicking here.
Every decade, the North Carolina constitution mandates that the legislature redraw Congressional, State House, and State Senate districts based off the new census data. This year, due to the ongoing pandemic and litigation, the United States Census Bureau was delayed in getting the census numbers out. Due to this delay, the redistricting process started later across the country, and in North Carolina specifically, redistricting did not begin until September and ended at the beginning of November, roughly six weeks before filing was set to begin on December 6th, 2021. Before the legislative redistricting process ended, litigation ensued through several different avenues, but only one was successful.
In Harper v. Hall, plaintiffs allege that the maps were (1) an extreme partisan gerrymander, (2) unlawfully caused racial vote dilution, and (3) violated the Stephenson I criteria on whole counties. The plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction in Wake County Superior Court on these claims and asked for a remedy that would delay filing and move the primary from March 8, 2022, to May 17, 2022. The plaintiffs lost on their preliminary injunction on Friday, December 3rd, 2021, and immediately appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
Next, the plaintiffs’ appeal was heard on Monday, December 6th, 2021, before a 3-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Here, the lower court ruling was reversed, and the court granted the preliminary injunction. Then, on the same day, legislative defendants appealed to the entire Court of Appeals (15 judges) where the panel reversed the 3-judge panel decision at the close of business on December 6th, 2021. Plaintiffs, having lost on their motion, appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
On Wednesday December 8th, the North Carolina Supreme Court heard the appeal on the preliminary injunction and reversed the Court of Appeals decision. In their ruling, the North Carolina Supreme Court moved the primary to May 17th, 2022 and immediately halted filing. In addition, the court ordered that the plaintiffs’ claims be ruled on the merits by Tuesday, January 11, 2022. Further, if any party wishes to appeal the findings on the merits, they must do so within 2 days in order to expedite the appellate process.
We will not know when filing will open back up or what the districts will look like until this case is litigated, and all of the appeals are exhausted. The one exception to this is the 2022 United States Senate race as that is the one statewide race for the 2022 cycle. The one definitive ruling with respect to the North Carolina 2022 election cycle is that the primary is now set for May 17th, 2022.
There will be no legislative meetings next week.