North Carolina election dates for 2022 likely won't be altered despite anticipated delays in receiving data needed to perform the once-a-decade redistricting, the General Assembly's top Republicans said on Thursday.
The Census Bureau isn't expected to provide detailed residential population numbers needed to redraw district boundaries for Congress, the legislature and for dozens of municipalities until August or September — months later than usually received after each decennial census.
That delay — caused by the coronavirus pandemic — prompted State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell in February to recommend legislators formally push back all municipal elections set for this fall and primary elections for U.S. House, Senate, General Assembly and other races set for March 8, 2022.
House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger said separately on Thursday that legislators, who redraw congressional and General Assembly maps, should have time to approve them in the fall so candidates filing for those seats in 2022 can begin promptly in December.
"We should have time and ability to get things resolved so that the (March) election can go forward as planned," Berger told reporters. He acknowledged that happenings beyond the state's control — longer delays in the receipt of census data and restricting litigation among them — could still require adjusting the 2022 schedule.
As for this year's municipal elections — covering various dates this September, October and November — the lack of agreement about what to do signals a statewide law to address them is unlikely to advance.
More than 60 cities and towns out of most than 500 municipalities statewide use census data to redraw wards or districts, so most aren't affected by the census data delay. Berger said the affected communities have the ability to hold elections using the current districts, or individual towns or cities can ask the legislature to pass local bills to address their specific elections.
"There's not been a consensus about what the right approach is because different areas want different things," Moore said. "That's really one that we're really wrestling with right now."
Brinson Bell had recommended a May 3 primary, July 12 runoff primary, and Nov. 8 general election in 2022 for both municipal and state elections. A wholesale delay in all elections was pitched as a way to limit voter confusion which could ensue if some elections get delayed and others aren't.