NORTH CAROLINA -- From marriage equality to abortion, the U.S. Supreme Court has a stacked docket this year.
But now, the recent passing of Justice Antonin Scalia leaves the bench divided between conservatives and liberals which potentially pushes several cases back to the lower courts.
“Because whatever the precedent the lower court is stands if the court remains divided at the supreme court level,” said Scott Huffmon, Political Science professor at Winthrop University.
A potentially deadlocked Supreme Court directly affects North Carolina.
Earlier this month, a federal court ruled that North Carolina's 1st and 12th congressional districts are unconstitutional and ordered the NC General Assembly to redraw these maps. The state appealed to the U.S Supreme Court but this decision is still pending.
“I think the best the state can hope for now that Scalia is no longer there is a 4-4 decision. If that's the case then the federal appeals court will hold meaning the state will have redraw congressional district lines before we can hold our congressional primary,” said Kerry Haynie, Political Science professor at Duke.
This could push the state's primaries from March 15 back into the summer.
Judge Scalia's passing also creates a new challenge for politicians who disagree on whether to move forward with nominating his successor or wait for a new president.
“Republicans do not want obama to be able to name a replacement. Many have already preemptively said that they'll oppose whoever he puts forward,” said Huffmon.
Huffmon said Supreme Court justices have been replaced during an election year but it hasn't happened often. He suggests one possible scenario.
“Strategically Obama might try to nominate someone he's recently appointed to some other federal court that sailed through the senate confirmation process,” said Huffmon. “If he does that, then he'll be saying to the public the Republicans in the Senate found no problems with this person previously but now they do it's all political.”
But even that's no guarantee for a timely confirmation for Scalia's successor.
Political experts say Justice Scalia's death also adds another hot button issue for this election cycle.