On April 20, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order in Dickson v Rucho, 14-839, telling the North Carolina Supreme Court to re-hear a case against the 2011 redistricting plans for U.S. House and state legislature. The North Carolina Supreme Court had upheld the districts late last year. Here is a link to the cert petition that had been filed earlier this year. See the maps on pages 16-20, which show the rather neat boundaries of various districts under the old redistricting from the 2000 census, and the very irregular shapes for the same districts after the 2010 census.
The North Carolina legislature drew districts in 2011 with very irregular boundaries in order to create some districts with a substantial black majority. Voting rights organizations then sued, arguing that although the plan did virtually guarantee a reasonable number of districts designed to elect black politicians, the plans actually reduced black voter influence overall because the majority of districts are now insulated from the influence of black voters. The state trial court in North Carolina had ruled against the 2011 districts. But then the North Carolina Supreme Court had ruled that the districts are constitutional. The vote in the North Carolina Supreme Court had been 4-2, with one member not voting.
This development makes it possible that the legislature will be required to redraw some U.S. House and legislative districts. If that is done in time for the 2016 election, that in turn may cause temporary improvements in ballot access for independent candidates, something that occurred in 2004 because of late redistricting. On February 9, 2004, the North Carolina Board of Elections moved the 2004 primary from May 4 to July 20, and cancelled the presidential primary, because the districts hadn’t been drawn yet. The Board also moved the independent candidate petition deadline from June 11 to July 6, which was the latest independent candidate petition deadline in North Carolina history (the 2004 change was only temporary, unfortunately). North Carolina independent candidate petitions are so severe, no independent candidate has ever appeared on a government-printed ballot for either house of Congress. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the news about the U.S. Supreme Court order. Here is a news story.