North Carolina Court Halts Candidate Filings for All State Legislature, U.S. House Races

A North Carolina Court of Appeals halted candidate filings for all state legislative and U.S. House races Monday.

The order was so judges could determine whether to block the use of district boundaries that a lawsuit filed by the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters alleges are illegal partisan gerrymanders, the Associated Press reported.

The league claims the maps approved by the General Assembly are illegally designed to allow Republicans to keep control of the legislature, letting them win a minimum of 10 of the state's 14 U.S. House seats. The league's attorneys, who requested the temporary delay, said there would be "needless waste and inconvenience" if candidates were allowed to file in what they claim are "unlawfully drawn districts."

"Needless aggravation may ensue if the state board must throw out existing candidacies and start over," the lawyers wrote.

A request by the league to stop the elections from happening was denied by a panel of three unnamed trial judges Friday, according to the AP.

The order came with minimal warning for potential candidates, who were supposed to be able to submit applications starting at noon. Potential candidates filing for U.S. Senate, judicial seats and city and county positions, were able to do so as scheduled at county election offices and Raleigh, the AP reported.

"There were some congressional candidates particularly that (were) caught off guard because some of them have traveled obviously across the state to get here today to be ready for filing," said Katie Brinson Bell, State Board of Elections executive director, in an interview.

At least four U.S. House candidates, such as Representative Alma Adams, were not able to file at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, said Patrick Gannon, a spokesperson for the State Board of Elections.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

North Carolina Filings, Pause, Lawsuit, Gerrymandering
MaryJane Robinson, left, a District Court judge candidate from Robeson County, files her candidacy papers with the State Board of Elections at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina, on December 6, 2021. While the state Court of Appeals ordered on Monday the temporary delay of candidate filing for General Assembly and U.S. House seats due to redistricting litigation, candidate filing for other 2022 races began as scheduled at noon. Bryan Anderson/AP Photo

The candidate filing period for the March 8 primary is supposed to continue through noon December 17.

The order, which comes from an unnamed three-judge panel of the intermediate-level appeals court, told lawyers for Republican legislative leaders and the state to respond by midday Thursday to the league's arguments. The league wants candidate filing to be suspended for a while so appeals courts can scrutinize the actual maps for potential illegal gerrymandering. The primary could be delayed, perhaps to May.

League Executive Director Carrie Clark said she was pleased with the ruling: "There is more work ahead to get these maps overturned and fair maps adopted, and we will continue to fight to protect our democracy."

Republican legislators, in turn, filed a motion Monday afternoon asking that the entire 15-judge Court of Appeals decide on both the temporary delay and the league's request for a longer filing postponement.

The appeals panel "has thrown the 2022 election cycle into unprecedented uncertainty—and for no good reason," the GOP's lawyers wrote, adding that a 15-judge review would "ensure that this matter receives expedient, efficient and sound process and judgment."

Republican legislative leaders have said the maps were lawfully drawn. Their lawyers told judges last week that while no political data was entered into mapmaking computers the General Assembly used, they also said state Supreme Court precedent allows the General Assembly to consider "partisan advantage" in drawing districts.

Bell said Board of Elections attorneys learned about the delay at 11:27 a.m.

She added that candidate filing could be delayed a few days beyond the current December 17 end date and keep the primary date in place, but not much more.

"We don't have a lot of time for give or take on these dates," Bell said, but "whatever they come up with, we'll make it happen."

Redistricting litigation forced some or all of the state's primaries to be delayed many times, including in 2002, 2004 and 2016.

Alma Adams, 2022 Election Filings, Halted, Lawsuit
Representative Alma Adams is one of at least four U.S. House candidates that was turned away from filing for the 2022 election at the State Fairgounds in Raleigh after an appeals court ordered the filing for state legislative and U.S. House seats halted. Above, Adams speaks at a press conference on H.R. 40 legislation as Representative Sheila Jackson Lee looks on on Capitol Hill on November 16, 2021, in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images