The North Carolina primary (search) was pushed back to July 20, the state Elections Board decided Monday, because federal judges haven't finished reviewing proposed new districts for legislative seats.

The delay of the election, originally scheduled for May 4, adds yet another chapter to a redistricting battle now in its fourth year. A group of Republicans has filed repeated lawsuits to block implementation of new district maps approved by mostly Democratic legislative leaders.

In 2002, lawsuits delayed the spring primary until September.

Larry Leake, the board's chairman, said July 20 was the latest date that the primary could be held and still meet requirements for organizing an election, such as printing ballots.

"It gives everyone a date to work toward," Leake said. "Hopefully, it will cause the Department of Justice and the judges to say `That's when North Carolina needs to have its primary."'

Some GOP leaders say the maps illegally dilute minority voting strength to bolster white Democrats and have sued in state court to block them.

North Carolina has filed a lawsuit asking a three-judge federal panel in the District of Columbia to decide whether state House and Senate redistricting maps meet the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act (search).

The judges are awaiting a response from the U.S. Justice Department saying whether it will oppose federal approval. The Justice Department (search also must separately consider some provisions in the elections legislation passed by state lawmakers in November.