No time for new North Carolina voting maps, groups tell court

FILE PHOTO: Visitors wait to enter the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington

FILE PHOTO: Visitors wait to enter the U.S. Supreme Court, as the Court sent back to a lower court a decision that Republicans in North Carolina had drawn congressional district boundaries to give their party an unfair advantage, in Washington, U.S., June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Toya Sarno Jordan/File Photo

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By Jon Herskovitz

(Reuters) - Groups who successfully sued North Carolina over Republican-constructed congressional maps that a court ruled to be illegally drawn for partisan purposes said on Friday there is not enough time to put in place new lines ahead of the November elections.

The groups' filing in federal court in North Carolina complicates an already difficult situation over maps that have been contested for years and could affect a Democratic push to wrest control of the U.S. House of Representatives from Republicans.

"Plaintiffs have concluded that a statewide redistricting just weeks before Election Day would not be a good-government solution," the North Carolina Democratic Party, Common Cause, and League of Women Voters said in their filing.

On Monday, a three-judge panel for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled that Republican legislators responsible for the map conducted unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering to dilute the impact of Democratic votes. They gave parties until Friday to present fixes.

Defendants, who included state Republican leaders, did not offer any remedy in their own filing and instead laid out the logistical difficulties in making changes.

In their decision, the judges did not rule out allowing the current maps to be used in the election.

The North Carolina dispute centered on a congressional redistricting plan adopted by the Republican-led legislature in 2016 after a court found that Republican lawmakers improperly used race as a factor when redrawing certain U.S. House districts after the 2010 census.

The Republican lawmaker in charge of the plan said it was crafted to maintain Republican dominance because "electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats."

Republicans in 2016 won 10 of the 13 House districts - 77 percent - despite getting just 53 percent of the statewide vote, nearly the same result as in 2014.

Nationally, Democrats need to pick up 23 seats to gain a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives that could thwart Republican President Donald 's legislative agenda.

North Carolina State House Rules Chairman David Lewis, a Republican, called on the court to put its ruling on hold.

Among the suggestions from the judges was holding state nominating primaries in November with new district lines that remove illegal partisan bias and then holding a general election before the new U.S. Congress is seated in January.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)

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