Legislature nears delaying elections in some cities to 2022

A limited number of lawmakers gather on the House floor as the North Carolina General Assembly opens a new session amid the current COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, April 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

RALEIGH — About three dozen municipalities — Charlotte and Greensboro among them — would see scheduled fall elections moved to early next year in legislation approved unanimously by the House on Wednesday that anticipates delayed redistricting.

These are municipalities with residents separated into wards or districts who elect specific council members. The towns and cities won’t have time to redraw those boundaries to reflect population changes reported by the 2020 Census because the data won’t be ready until late summer or early fall.

The bill says these municipalities would have elections on March 8, 2022, which is also the date for state and federal primaries. Some municipalities also would have additional elections in April or May. These communities would have the option to hold elections in 2021 for at-large offices like mayor if they wish. All of these towns and cities still would have to complete their redistricting by late fall.

Raleigh would be one of the municipalities subject to the delay, but House members instead approved an amendment to follow the wishes of city leaders by moving this year’s elections to November 2022 — then let them stick to even-numbered years thereafter. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Lexington schools boards also would move their 2021 elections to November 2022, but that change would not be permanent.

A version of the bill passed the Senate last week. The Senate now must decide whether to accept the House changes in the bill, which would go to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk if given final approval.