House committee approves new congressional district maps

House Speaker Tim Moore (R-King's Mountain)

House Speaker Tim Moore (R-King’s Mountain)

RALEIGH – Friday morning the House Redistricting Committee gave the green light to Senate Bill 2, which reconfigured the state’s district maps to comply with last week’s judges’ decision that the current lines illegally used race as a determining factor. The bill will now go before the full House, scheduled to convene later in the morning.

Senator Rucho and Senate leader Phil Berger confer

Senator Rucho and Senate leader Phil Berger confer

While the Senate worked on getting new maps through the body, on Thursday evening the House approved House Bill 1, which moved the congressional primaries back to June 7 to try to minimize voter and candidate confusion over the new district lines. In the bill, presidential and gubernatorial primaries and the Connect NC bond would still go before voters on March 15.

However, the bill also eliminates runoffs in close elections with more than two candidates.  Currently the second place candidate can demand a runoff if the winner did not get forty percent of the vote.   The second primary system would be re-instituted in 2018.  The Senate will convene Friday morning to vote on those changes to the primary schedule.

If the U.S. Supreme Court responds to lawmakers’ request for a stay of the three judge panels’ ruling until after November, then work begins on appealing the decision. The stay would allow time for the appeal to be heard by the court and this election cycle to complete. If a stay is not granted and both bills pass, the spring could still bring confusion at the ballot box. Without a stay, candidates running for the March 15 primary would have their results thrown out and need to refile in their new districts. The filing period for new districts would be from March 16-25.

Minority Leader Larry Hall (D-Durham) examines House Bill 1.

Minority Leader Larry Hall (D-Durham) examines House Bill 1.

“I would say that for the record we are still hopeful that a stay will be issued because we are concerned about the chaos that could ensue,” said Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett). “While we are still in an uncertain time it is very important that people who received a ballot, that they go ahead and exercise their right and vote.  If the election ends up being thrown out then no harm, no foul.”

General Assembly staff members say that there has been no indication whether the U.S. Supreme Court will issue the stay. Further complicating the timeline, Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away last weekend, is lying in repose at the U.S. Supreme Court’s Great Hall on Friday, with his memorial service scheduled for Saturday.