The North Carolina Supreme Court caught many people off guard with a ruling on Wednesday, Dec. 8, that immediately suspended filing and delayed all primary elections in the state from March 8 to May 17.

The NC Supreme Court was responding to legal challenges to the redrawn congressional and state legislative districts approved by the state legislature, which has a Republican majority.

The NC Supreme Court has a 4-3 Democratic majority.

A press release from state Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance and Guilford) questions whether North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Sam Ervin voted to suspend filing and delay the primary in order to benefit his own statewide race for reelection.  Ervin is the only justice on the NC Supreme Court running for reelection in 2022.

The press release from Galley states, “Justice Ervin won’t say whether he participated in the decision that benefitted his own reelection campaign and harmed his challengers’ campaigns.”

The press release notes that two Republicans have filed to run against Ervin and, with the primary delayed, those candidates will spend an additional two months running against each other, rather than the winner of the primary spending that time and money running against Ervin.

Galley said, “Voters deserve to know whether Justice Ervin used his power as a Supreme Court justice to change state law in a way that benefits his own reelection campaign.  Silence is unacceptable.”

The decision also delayed the Greensboro City Council primary even though it will be unaffected by the results of the legal challenges to the congressional and state legislature redistricting.  It’s the second delay for the City Council primary, which was originally scheduled for Oct. 5, 2021.

Greensboro City Councilmember Justin Outling, who filed to run for mayor of Greensboro on Wednesday, Dec. 8, before filing was suspended, said, “From a legal perspective, it is odd to have races that are not impacted by the lawsuits delayed.”

Outling, who is a partner in the Brooks Pierce law firm, noted that generally injunctions are narrowly tailored, but in this case the injunction covers all the primaries in the state, even those not affected by the outcome of the lawsuit.

The dates when filing will reopen and the date of the City Council general election have not been set.