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North Carolina legislative leaders aren’t conceding anything, but they are preparing to draw quickly if necessary.
A federal judicial panel has told North Carolina that it must produce new congressional district maps by Feb. 19 to resolve objections that the current 1st and 12th districts were based too much on the race of voting age residents. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will grant an emergency stay of that order and eventually overturn the ruling.
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But with Chief Justice John Roberts giving plaintiffs in the case until Tuesday to respond to the stay request, the time window appeared too tight for legislators to pin all their plans on prevailing with the justices.
Berger and Moore announced late Friday that they have appointed a Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting. Among the Western North Carolina members are Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, who will serve as its vice chairman; Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherford; Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson; and Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell.
Public hearings are scheduled across the state for 10 a.m., Monday, including at the University of North Carolina at Asheville’s Robinson Hall.
Despite the urgency, lawmakers recognize that the weather forecast is unfavorable. In case the snow falls hard Monday, the hearing may be cancelled. In that case, those wishing to comment may submit written comments. If the hearing does go forward, those signed up to speak will be allowed five minutes each. Others may also submit written and email comments through a link on the General Assembly website which was expected to be posted over the weekend.
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Elections officials talked with Carolina Public Press last week about the cost of moving the primaries for Congress, should that become necessary.
One issue that has not been explored so far is whether current candidates for Congress would be allowed to continue their campaigns with the maps redrawn or the process would be reopened with a new filing period for new candidates. North Carolina allows candidates for Congress who do not reside in the same district they are seeking to represent, but generally candidates attempt to run in their own districts and face uphill challenges to running as outsiders.