TRIAD — North Carolina’s top elections administrator urged state lawmakers Tuesday to move all of this year’s municipal elections to early 2022 and bump back next year’s primaries from March to May because census data for redistricting is coming late.
Census numbers play a crucial role in how legislative districts are redrawn every decade, but 62 of the more than 500 municipalities in the state also have election districts that are redrawn based on the census.
The data was supposed to be delivered by next month, but the federal government now does not expect to have it ready to be released until September because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections, said while local governments that do not have districts or wards could go forward without the census data, she said that could confuse some voters.
“It is very difficult for voters to understand why one municipality would be having an election while another is not, especially when they’re accustomed to those elections being held at the same time,” Bell said.
She also noted it’s unlikely redistricting would be completed in time for the December filing deadline for candidates running in the March 2022 primary elections. Races on the ballot in 2022 include a U.S. Senate seat, U.S. House seats, judicial races and state legislative seats.
Bell is recommending a May 3 primary, July 12 runoff and Nov. 8 general election. The municipal elections would coincide with the May 3 primary.
If carried out, local cities and towns that would have their elections postponed include Thomasville, Trinity, Wallburg, Jamestown, Greensboro and Midway.
The postponement wouldn’t affect High Point because the city has shifted to four-year terms and won’t hold its next local election until 2023. The move also wouldn’t affect Archdale, which is one of the few cities in the state to hold municipal elections in even-numbered years and has its next election in the fall of 2022.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly has the ultimate decision on when to hold the elections, and the State Board of Elections is tasked with carrying out the plan.