Local News

Redistricting Controversy Could Rule Out Need For Primary

Posted November 27, 2003 12:34 p.m. EST

— If you want a say in who is running for President, you probably will have to move out of state.

For years, North Carolina's primary has been too late in the process to even matter. Next time around, people may not get a voice at all.

Just Tuesday night, Gov. Mike Easley signed the

controversial redistricting bill.

Wednesday night, there was growing concern that legal challenges could end up postponing the May primaries. That would not only complicate state campaigns, but it also could take North Carolina voters out of the presidential primary process.

For all the things Democrats and Republicans disagree on at the polls, their parties agree on at least one thing -- They do not want next May's primary delayed.

"There are an awful lot of implications if that surfaces," said Democratic Party Affairs Director Wade Chestnut.

Added GOP Political Director Bill Peaslee: "It's difficult from a party perspective, because you don't have a particular candidate you're focusing on."

Republicans are expected to challenge the newly drawn legislative districts in court, and that could lead to Democratic appeals and delays.

"The essence of gerrymandering is one party trying to rig the election against the other party," Peaslee said. "These are similar tactics."

Section 5 of the new redistricting law states that if challenges are not resolved by Feb. 9, the state Board of Elections shall postpone all the May primaries. A delay could take away North Carolina voters' voice in choosing nominees for president.

If the primary gets pushed to September, like in recent years, the national Republican and Democratic conventions already would have anointed their candidates.

"Delegates to the national convention will not know what the people of their party . . . where they stand in the primary," Peaslee said.

President Bush has no competition. But several Democrats, including North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, are fighting to make the ticket. Both state parties could be faced with directing their delegates at early caucuses or conventions instead of the primary.

"We're going to cross that bridge when we know what the issues are we're going to have to deal with," Chestnut said.

Both parties point out there are still more than five months until the scheduled May primary. This issue could be resolved in time.

But, if the redistricting fight drags out in court, everyone will have to start working on contigency plans.