Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a bill Friday that would have preemptively moved the primary to June prior to a ruling by the state Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Republican-drawn state legislative and congressional districts. That means the primary will likely proceed in May.
A lower court has already moved the primary once–from March to May. House Bill 605, which passed by a party-line vote, would have moved the date even further back to June 7.
On Friday, Cooper issued a statement saying the date of the election should be left to the courts.
“This bill is an additional attempt by Republican legislators to control the election timeline and undermine the voting process,” Cooper said. “The constitutionality of congressional and legislative districts is now in the hands of the North Carolina Supreme Court and the Court should have the opportunity to decide how much time is needed to ensure that our elections are constitutional.”
The maps, which Democrats have called extreme partisan gerrymanders, stand to give Republicans even more control of the legislature and increase congressional representation. According to an analysis by The News & Observer, even if Democrats and Republicans turnout in even numbers, the GOP would be poised to secure at least 10 of the state’s 14 congressional seats and snag a supermajority in the legislature, overpowering Cooper’s veto.
North Carolina has more registered Democrats than Republicans. As of this week, there were nearly 2.5 million registered Democrats to 2.2 million registered Republicans. An additional 2.5 million are registered as unaffiliated.
A lawsuit on behalf of Common Cause and the North Carolina NAACP claims the district maps are unconstitutional because Republicans failed to consult racial data when crafting the districts, which ultimately resulted in the dilution of Black votes. The state Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case starting next week.
If the left-leaning court rules the maps are unconstitutional, it will leave little time for Republicans to redraw the maps in time for the primary. The court could still decide to push the primary back further.
For the May primary to proceed, new maps would need to be finalized by mid-February and candidate filling would need to open by February 24.
Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.
Follow Senior Staff Writer Leigh Tauss on Twitter or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.