New bill would delay some NC city elections to 2022

Census delays are expected to push at least some municipal elections, usually held in odd years, to 2022.

Posted Updated
Vote; election
Travis Fain
, WRAL statehouse reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — New legislation would give cities and towns across the state the option of delaying this year's council elections if they need to draw new districts and can't get the job done in time because of census delays.
Senate Bill 722 rolled out Wednesday. It acknowledges the delay in once-a-decade census data that cities and others need to draw new election districts based on the latest population counts.
Since that data isn't expected in full until September, and municipal elections are currently scheduled for September, October and November, depending on whether a city holds partisan primary elections, many localities won't be able to get their new districts done in time.

The bill lets them put elections off until spring 2022. Current elected officials would have their terms extended.

Some municipalities won't need to change anything, because they elect all officials citywide or because their districts are based on geography, not population. But for cities that do need changes, if they can't get the redraw done before the third business day before filing opens in the 2021 elections, they'd be able to delay municipal elections to 2022.

City councils would have to hold a public hearing before delaying elections, and the new election would typically be in March, on the same day as the 2022 primaries in state and federal elections.

From there, the schedule would depend on the city's system. Raleigh, for example, holds nonpartisan elections with a subsequent runoff, if needed. So, its elections would be in March, with any needed runoffs in May.

The prospect of May runoffs concerns some because turnout would likely be low, but the bill moved through the Senate Redistricting and Elections committee Wednesday with strong support.

The State Board of Elections asked for a few changes to deal with a potential software issue that would come from the new schedule, but lawmakers indicated those issues would be worked out and asked a board attorney to provide proposed new language.


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