As I recently discussed, on June 5th the United State Supreme Court affirmed the decision of a three-judge panel based out of the Middle District of North Carolina holding that 28 of North Carolina’s state legislative districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The Supreme Court affirmed without opinion, and remanded the case back to the three-judge panel for determination of whether special elections should still be ordered in 2017. After the Court’s decision on Thursday, that possibility is much less likely.
After the Court affirmed and remanded, the Plaintiffs in Covington moved for the Court for “issuance of its judgment forthwith,” essentially asking the Court to immediately return the case to the three-judge panel for ruling on if and when special elections should occur. A motion was required because, under Supreme Court Rule 44, parties typically have 25 days in which to move for rehearing on a matter. As such, had the Court granted the petitioners motion it would have effectively foreclosed the State’s right to ask for rehearing (although note, rehearings are very rarely actually granted). Since it is still unlikely the Court will actually grant the State a rehearing, this seems like a sign that several, if not most of the Justices either do not see any need for haste in holding a special election, or do not think holding one in 2017 is actually feasible. Given the time it will take the three-judge panel to rule, and the time it will take the State to re-draw the districts, a special election in 2017 now seems much less likely.