Elections in many NC municipalities delayed until 2022

General Assembly - Raleigh - May 2020
N.C. General Assembly as seen from the grounds of the Capitol building. (A.P. Dillon, North State Journal)

RALEIGH — This fall’s elections in about three dozen North Carolina municipalities will now occur in early 2022 due to census-data delays in legislation that Gov. Roy Cooper let become law without his signature.

The measure emerged after it became clear towns and cities where certain residents vote in district-specific races could not redraw district boundaries in time for usual municipal election dates. That’s because the 2020 census information necessary for redistricting won’t be available until late summer or early fall.

The legislation tells these towns and cities — Charlotte, Greensboro, Cary and Fayetteville among them — to complete the redistricting either by Nov. 17 or Dec. 17. These municipalities would have elections on March 8, 2022 — the date for state and federal primaries. Some municipalities also would have additional elections in April or May. These communities have the option to hold elections in 2021 for at-large offices like mayor if they wish.

“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,” Cooper wrote in explaining his decision.

And while Raleigh was among the affected municipalities, their local senators had complained about a late addition to the bill in the House, sought by Raleigh city leaders, that permanently moves their municipal elections to even-numbered years, starting with November 2022. Election runoffs in Raleigh also would end, meaning the top vote-getter wins regardless of the percentage of votes received.

Hundreds of other municipalities that have only citywide elections aren’t subject to the changes, and will hold their fall elections as scheduled.