The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed a lower court demand that North Carolina lawmakers redraw many of their districts and hold new elections in 2017.
The one-paragraph order puts the case on hold until the Supreme Court decides whether it will hear the matter, and WRAL reports that if SCOTUS does take the case, North Carolina won’t hold a new election until the high court makes a ruling on the issue.
Normally, North Carolina would not have had another election until 2018, but a lower court found that 28 of the 170 state legislative districts in North Carolina violated rules against relying heavily on the race of voters to determine district lines, a practice known as gerrymandering.
According to WRAL, the trio of judges who made the original ruling said last week that they did not want to give lawmakers more time to redraw their districts.
"The time during which Plaintiffs and other citizens are represented by legislators elected in racially gerrymandered districts would serve only to exacerbate the irreparable harm the voters have already suffered by allowing an unconstitutionally constituted legislature to continue to act," the judges wrote in their Jan. 4 order.
WRAL notes that many of the issues at play in this state gerrymandering case are similar to a case involving congressional districts that went before the Supreme Court in December; the high court has not issued a ruling in that case yet.
While it remains unclear if or when the court will have a full hearing on the cases, the justices do have the option of ruling either for or against the state without the benefit of further briefings or hearing oral arguments.
"Today’s action just puts everything on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court considers the appeal of whether the district court was correct to order special elections in 2017. On behalf of our clients, we continue to trust that the district court’s ruling will be upheld and new districts ultimately will be drawn that are not based on race," Anita Earls, director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represents the plaintiffs who challenged the districts, said.
On the other side, Republican leaders in the state issued a joint news release praising the stay.
"We are grateful the U.S. Supreme Court has quashed judicial activism and rejected an attempt to nullify the votes of North Carolinians in the 2016 legislative elections," state House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger said.
Read more at WRAL.