With candidate filing Monday, court decisions loom large

With candidate filing Monday, court decisions  loom large
February 08
05:07 2018

By Cash Michaels

Monday, Feb. 12, is the beginning of the filing period for candidates for public office in North Carolina. Technically, that’s when Democrats and Republicans, hoping to compete in their respective party primaries for a chance to be ultimately selected to run in the fall 2018 midterm elections, commit themselves for either statewide or congressional office.

But thanks to an unceasing plethora of court cases involving legislative, congressional and judicial redistricting, confusion has been the buzzword as to whether even the filing period would be allowed to commence.

At press time Tuesday, there was no official word of any delays that would disrupt the filing period. In fact, at least one court ruling last week cleared the way for several judicial candidates who originally were off the ballot.

U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles partially granted a preliminary injunction against Senate Bill 656, which, when passed by the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly last year, eliminated judicial primary races. In her order, Judge Eagles said it made no sense to do away with primaries for statewide races for the state Court of Appeals and the N.C. Supreme Court (currently there are races for both) because neither post are depended on voting districts.

However, because district and superior court cases do involve voting districts, and the legislature is currently considering a new judicial redistricting map (expected to be debated and voted on this week, according to reports) Judge Eagles decided to allow the elimination of primaries in those races, until she can decide whether the law was completely unconstitutional.

“The defendants have offered a legitimate governmental interest in this change as to elections of superior and district court judges, as the legislature plans to redistrict these seats this year and primaries using current district lines may be unnecessary and will cause confusion if and when the redistricting is complete,” Judge Eagles wrote in her opinion. “The defendants have made no showing of any governmental interest supporting the abolishment of a mechanism to narrow the field in partisan appellate judicial races, as those judges are elected statewide and are not subject to redistricting.”

Meanwhile, in the legislative redistricting case where a federal three-judge panel ruled that the maps drawn by a court-appointed special master should be used to correct the racially gerrymandered voting districts drawn by GOP lawmakers, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked a special master’s maps for Wake and Mecklenburg counties, while allowing maps for six other redrawn counties to stand. Republican legislative leaders had petitioned for an emergency stay, as well as a notice of appeal.     

It is not known why the Wake and Mecklenburg county maps were blocked.

In all, there are five redistricting cases pending in the both federal and state courts in North Carolina, and most observers expect that because these cases deal with how voting districts are drawn, while the filing for office may not be delayed, the May primaries may be for at least a month.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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