February 20, 2016 / 3:55 AM / 4 years ago

Supreme Court denies stay request in North Carolina redistricting case

A woman walks past the Supreme Court building at Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., February 13, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay a ruling that two North Carolina congressional districts be redrawn over racial gerrymandering in a 2011 redistricting, forcing congressional primaries to be rescheduled for June 7.

A lower court panel of federal judges this month barred elections in the majority black districts, the 1st and the 12th, until new maps are approved, calling the current maps unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court gave no explanation for its decision in a one-sentence order issued late on Friday night.

The ruling said race had been the main factor when the Republican-controlled legislature redrew the boundaries and state lawmakers were not justified in using that benchmark.

Three voters filed suit in 2013 to invalidate the districts. Both are represented by Democrats, with G.K. Butterfield in the 1st, and Alma Adams in the 12th.

The primaries for the state’s 13 U.S. House seats will be held on June 7 rather than March 15 after North Carolina lawmakers agreed to move the date on Thursday if the Supreme Court rejected the stay request. The state’s presidential and gubernatorial primaries will still be held on March 15.

Broadcaster WRAL reported that while state lawmakers hoped for a stay, legislators in the state’s House on Friday moved ahead and gave final approval to newly-drafted congressional maps ahead of the Court’s decision to reject the stay request.

Politico reported that Justice Antonin Scalia had been expected to vote in favor of staying the ruling before his death last Saturday, though it was not immediately clear how his death affected the court’s decision.

Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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