This story originally published online at NC Policy Watch. 

Republicans voted to delay the 2022 primaries until June 7, giving them more time to redraw new congressional and legislative districts if the state’s highest court decides their plans are unconstitutional.

House bill 605 sped through the legislature in one day and is on its way to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk. The bill establishes July 26 as the primary runoff date. The candidate filing period would run from March 24 to April 1.

The state Supreme Court had already pushed primaries from March to May 17 to make time for a trial and appeal over GOP redistricting plans.

Democratic legislators said Wednesday that the Republican move to make another date change was premature.

“This bill is coming too soon,” Sen. Natasha Marcus, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, said at a committee meeting Wednesday.  “I’m confused about why we’re trying to get ahead of the court in this way.”

The state Senate passed the bill on a 26-17 party-line vote. Vote in the House was 69-50, with all Republicans voting for it and Democrats opposed.

Republican legislators are being sued over their maps for new congressional and legislative districts. Challengers say the maps are extreme partisan gerrymanders that lock in Republican majorities for the next decade and dilute the power of Black voters. The challengers lost in trial court last week. A three-judge panel said the districts are gerrymandered to Republicans’ advantage, but they are not unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court will hear the case on February 2.

Republican Sen. Warren Daniel of Morganton said the state Board of Elections needs more time to prepare for primaries and potential candidates need more time to make decisions about running, even if the Supreme Court upholds the districts.

If the court orders new maps, state law gives legislators two weeks to comply.

Governor Roy Cooper’s office was less than enthusiastic about the Republicans’ proposed date change.

“The three-judge panel during the trial has already found as fact that the maps drawn by Republicans are intentional, partisan gerrymanders,” Cooper spokesman Jordan Monaghan said in a statement.  The Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of these districts and legislators should avoid additional attempts to undermine the voting process.”

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