U.S. census delays may force cities in the Triad and Triangle to push back local elections this year. The move would keep current leaders in office beyond their original terms.

Cities that elect local leaders by district have to update those districts following each new census. But due to delays, data that are normally released in April won't be available until September 30, after the traditional filing date for candidates like those running for mayor, and in the case of Greensboro, City Council.

North Carolina State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell says when to hold the 2021 local elections becomes a legal consideration.

“Do you extend the period that someone's serving because we haven't established where the new district lines are? And do you want to make sure that the people who are elected for the next set of terms properly represent the districts as they are defined based upon the census data? So, that's really what's being weighed here,” she says.

Brinson Bell adds that ultimately, it's the legislative and governing bodies of the municipalities that will decide when elections will be held. But before filing can begin, they will need roughly eight weeks to study the census data for their districts or wards. Then state and county boards of elections will take another eight weeks to implement new district lines and prepare ballots. 

“To prepare for the 2020 election we proofed, coded, and created over 4,000 different ballot styles across the state,” says Brinson Bell. “As we look at the municipal elections, that's over 2,000. And then there's the overlap of all those different district lines — congressional, house, and senate for North Carolina's legislature — and then you add in municipal boundaries and it becomes quite the puzzle.”


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