Congressional Primary Could Slip After North Carolina Ruling (1)

  • State court blocks use of U.S. House maps for now
  • District lines have been argued in court for years

Updated with additional comment in the last two paragraphs.)

North Carolina’s politicians will have to work fast if they want to hold congressional primaries on March 3.

Those elections may have to be pushed back after a court ruling Monday barred the use of the state’s latest congressional map.

The North Carolina Superior Court for Wake County issued an injunction blocking the use of the state’s 2016 congressional map, pending further review. The court said the plaintiffs showed that they were likely to prevail in their argument that the boundaries were illegally drawn to maximize Republican advantage.

If the state can’t produce a House district map that meets the court’s standards, it could wreck plans to hold congressional primaries alongside presidential “Super Tuesday” balloting in March.

Read more about the court ruling

“These disruptions to the election process need not occur, nor may an expedited schedule for summary judgment or trial even be needed, should the General Assembly, on its own initiative, act immediately and with all due haste to enact new congressional districts,” according to the ruling.

While blocking the use of the congressional map, the superior court approved redrawn maps for statehouse districts.

The state legislative and congressional boundary lines were challenged by a group of voters backed by Common Cause and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee headed by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The district lines have been argued in court for years, including a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided that it was up to the states to figure out when boundaries are improperly tilted to the benefit of one party.

“Lawmakers are reviewing today’s order in Harper v. Lewis and will have further comment in the coming days,” said Joseph Kyzer, spokesman for Speaker of the House Rep. Tim Moore (R).

B.J. Rudell, associate director of the Center for Political Leadership, Innovation, and Service at Duke University, called the ruling “a fascinating situation.”

Republican leaders want a map that helps them retain seats, but “there’s no conceivable way Republicans can adhere to the court’s ruling without shifting some of their members” into Democratic-majority districts, he said.

“That’s a risky proposition, as it could lead to open intra-party fighting in the critical months before the biggest general election in 20 years,” Rudell said in an email.

Republicans probably will request state Supreme Court review, said Carmine Scavo, professor of political science at East Carolina University.

No matter what happens, though, the impact would be felt for just one cycle, Scavo said. North Carolina is on track to gain a congressional seat after the 2020 Census, he said, “and then it’s a whole new ballgame.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew M. Ballard in Raleigh, N.C. at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at; Heather Rothman at