RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Democratic legislative leaders on Tuesday panned a fast-moving effort by Republicans to delay primary elections by another three weeks, saying scheduling should be left to the state Supreme Court that is scrutinizing GOP redistricting plans.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper also appeared to criticize the Republican attempt, which is set for General Assembly debate and votes on Wednesday. He’d be asked to sign any primary delay bill into law. Unless Republicans are able to persuade a few Democrats to join them and postpone the primary from May 17 to June 7, the GOP would lack the votes to override a Cooper veto.
Republican legislative leaders on Monday unveiled their plan to meet in Raleigh for one day to pass a measure that would pass put off primaries for U.S. Senate and House, the legislature and scores of judicial and local races a little longer. The state Supreme Court last month unilaterally delayed the primary originally set in state law for March 8 by 10 weeks. That was so the courts could hear litigation challenging the legislative and congressional maps approved in November as illegal partisan and racial gerrymanders.
“The Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of these districts and legislators should avoid additional attempts to undermine the voting process,” Cooper spokesperson Jordan Monaghan wrote in an email.
A panel of three trial judges refused last week to throw out the maps. The decision was appealed to the state’s highest court by voters and advocacy groups who sued.
With the Supreme Court setting oral arguments for Feb. 2, it could be very hard for the legislature to redraw maps if ordered by the justices and have them ready for the State Board of Elections by Feb. 18. That date is the board’s deadline to prepare orderly the May 17 primary. By state law, Republicans are supposed to have at least two weeks to redraw maps. They say any delay would promote fairness and avoid confusion.
Democrats, who oppose the maps, on Tuesday sounded more comfortable leaving the matter with the Supreme Court, where four of the seven justices are registered Democrats.
The “Supreme Court now has the case. We should wait for their decision and, if it’s necessary to move the primary, the court can do so,” House Minority Leader Robert Reives of Chatham County said.
His Senate counterpart, Sen. Dan Blue of Wake County, added: “I have faith in our Supreme Court justices to act in the best interest of the people.”