North Carolina Supreme Court delays primary elections until May 2022

FILE PHOTO: The Charlotte, North Carolina skyline is seen through the window of an airplane ahead of the Democratic National Convention

By Dan Whitcomb and Jahnavi Nidumolu

(Reuters) -The North Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered primary elections in the state delayed from March until May of 2022, citing legal challenges to gerrymandered political maps.

The court in its five-page unsigned written ruling directed North Carolina election officials to hold primaries for all state offices on May 17.

The justices ordered a lower-court judge to hold further proceedings on three lawsuits filed by Democrats and civil rights groups over the redrawn maps, citing the great public interest in the subject matter of these cases."

"Today's order by the state Supreme Court restores faith in the rule of law and it is necessary for the court to rule on the constitutionality of these unfair districts before the next election," North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said in a written statement.

Tim Moore, speaker of the Republican-controlled state legislature, said in a statement posted to Twitter that he was disappointed in the court's ruling.

"To throw this process into chaos in the middle of filing leaves North Carolinians with uncertainty ahead of the election," Moore said. "Despite this delay, we are confident that we will prevail at trial and our maps will stand."

The revised political maps, which were approved by the legislature, gave Republicans advantages over Democrats in the majority of districts.

The court's ruling also suspended candidate filing dates for the 2022 primary elections, including municipal races.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb, Jahnavi Nidumolu and Radhika Anilkumar; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Richard Pullin)