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North Carolina Delays Municipal Elections

July 2, 2021 by TWN Staff
The North Carolina State capitol in Raleigh.

Lawmakers in the North Carolina Legislature have decided to delay municipal elections — pushing them to 2022 — due to the U.S. Census Bureau’s failure to release block-level population data from its latest national count in a timely manner.

The legislation, which went into effect Monday, impacts races in more than 30 municipalities across the state, including Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, and Raleigh.

The delay will allow these municipalities to consider revising their electoral districts based on new population numbers from the 2020 U.S. Census.

“City, town, and village elections not affected by this law will go on as planned later this year,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections. “The State Board and county boards are hard at work preparing for the upcoming candidate filing periods and elections.”

Once the Bureau releases raw 2020 block level data in mid-August, the municipalities will make any needed changes to their electoral districts. In previous census cycles, the Bureau delivered block-level data in the spring.

Current officeholders in affected municipalities whose terms were set to expire in 2021, will remain in office until after the elections in 2022.

The state’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper declined to sign the bill, allowing it to go into law without his endorsing it.              

“While delays to census data caused by the pandemic necessitate changes to local elections, decisions about local elections like these should involve more open discussion and public input, and therefore, these changes will become law without my signature.”

Under the law, elections will be rescheduled based on each municipality’s current election schedule:

  • Municipalities that planned to hold primaries this year will now hold them on March 8, 2022;
  • Local general elections will take place on April 26, 2022; except in municipalities where the primary election has resulted in a runoff contest for the U.S. House and Senate. In those cases, the general election will be held on May 17, 2022;
  • For municipalities using the nonpartisan plurality method, like Greenville, the general election will take place on March 8, 2022.

Also changing are filing deadlines. For municipalities that revise their district maps by Nov. 17, the candidate filing period for the 2022 elections will open on Dec. 6 and close on Dec. 17.

For municipalities that revise their district maps between Nov. 18 and Dec. 17, the candidate filing period will open on Jan. 3, 2022, and close on Jan. 7, 2022.

Municipalities that wish to proceed with at-large elections as scheduled in 2021 must notify their county election boards within five days of the opening of the candidate filing period.

Only one other state has postponed 2022 primary elections due to the Census Bureau. That state is Illinois.

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