Local News

Debate Over District Maps Could Lead To N.C. Caucuses

Posted January 19, 2004 11:17 a.m. EST

— The legal battle over legislative districts could postpone North Carolina's May primary. A decision on the maps will have to be made by Feb. 9 for the primary to go forward.

Democrats say holding caucuses will be their backup.

Though Monday was a holiday, N.C. Democratic Party Director Scott Falmen was busy at work. He hopes to submit a contigency primary plan to the Department of Justice by Tuesday.

The Democrats want a presidential primary in May. But with a legal battle over legislative maps still up in the air, they know a primary might not take place.

"Our fear is that far fewer people will participate in the caucus process than in the primary process," Falmen said. "So the lack of participation is what concerns us most."

The Democrats call their alternative plan a cross between a caucus and a primary. Unlike a primary, voters will not go into a voting booth and secretly cast a ballot. Like a caucus, voters will publicly state their candidate preference.

"The difference is we aren't going to be sitting down and looking at each other and talking to each other about 3-4 candidates that are running," said UNC political professor Thad Beyle.

Democrats said holding caucuses would at least ensure delegate representation at the party's national convention.

Republicans are against the caucus idea. They, too, worry about lack of participation.

Republicans said Democrats have the ability to ensure a primary.

"The Democrats are in control in the House, Senate and Governor's mansion," said William Peaslee, of the North Carolina Republican Party. "If they want to come back into session to reverse the law they passed, to put a deadline of Feb. 9, they have the ability to do that."

On Friday, Republicans challenging the districts asked the State Supreme Court to order the primary go on using 2002 maps. Everyone is waiting on an answer.