Washington (CNN) – West Virginia's legislative leaders have asked the US. Supreme Court to allow the state's new voting district map to stay in place.
An emergency appeal was filed late Friday with Chief Justice John Roberts, seeking to overturn a lower federal court's January 3 decision that the Congressional boundaries were unconstitutional.
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West Virginia lawmakers– backed by the state attorney general– said in their time-sensitive appeal that crafting a new map would be time-consuming, expensive, and cause "irreparable harm."
A three-judge panel concluded the new Congressional lines did not provide equal representation in the US House of Representatives. Republicans David McKinley and Shelley Moore Capito hold two of three congressional seats, with Democrat Nick Rahall serving the other. The court gave the legislature until Jan. 17 to submit an interim redistricting plan, or the panel said it would craft its own plan.
West Virginia's Congressional redistricting plan was approved by large margins in both the state Senate and the House of Delegates, then signed into law by Gov. Earl Tomblin (D). It then became the first plan to be completely rejected by the courts.
It was unclear when Roberts would rule. He has the option of asking his eight colleagues to weigh in on the matter. The state urged the high court to act quickly, since candidate filings started this week, even though the Congressional boundaries are still in limbo. The filing deadline is January 28. The primary is set for May 8.
Depending how quickly the dispute can be settled, the state could hold their primary at a later date as a special election; use the existing boundaries crafted after the 2000 census; or try to adopt a new plan through the legislature. The state said each of those three options were not workable.
All states are required to redo their voting boundaries following the recently completed nationwide census, conducted once every 10 years.
The West Virginia dispute comes on the heels of a challenge to the map crafted by Texas legislators, which was also rejected by a federal court. The Supreme Court heard arguments in that case Monday, and a ruling on Texas could establish important guidelines for other states. There are about 30 court cases nationwide dealing with challenges to legislative boundaries.
The high court appeal is Tennant v. Jefferson County Commission (11A674).