North Carolina General Assembly enacts bill postponing 2021 municipal elections to 2022

The delayed release of 2020 block-level data by the U.S. Census Bureau has led the state of North Carolina to delay municipal elections currently scheduled for 2021. 

A bill postponing this year’s municipal elections in North Carolina to 2022 became law on June 28. It affects elections in at least 35 municipalities, including Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, and Raleigh. 

The bill, SB722, applies to any municipality holding elections in 2021 for officers representing a subdivision within the municipality, such as a city council ward. In other words, this change does not affect mayoral elections. SB722 allows municipalities holding elections for at-large offices to proceed as scheduled in 2021.

Once the U.S. Census Bureau releases raw 2020 block-level data in mid-August, the municipalities will make any needed changes to their electoral districts. In previous census cycles, the bureau delivered block-level data in the spring. 

Current officeholders in affected municipalities whose terms were set to expire in 2021 will remain in office until after the elections in 2022. 

The bill (SB722) became law without Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) signature. Cooper said, “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, and therefore, these changes will become law without my signature.” 

The North Carolina House of Representatives unanimously approved SB722 on June 9. The North Carolina Senate approved the bill 33-14 on June 14. All votes opposed came from Democrats. Republicans control the chamber 28-22.

New Election Dates

Elections will be rescheduled based on election methods.

For municipalities using either the partisan primary and election method (for example, Charlotte) or the nonpartisan primary and election method (for example, Fayetteville), the primary will take place on March 8, 2022.

The general election will take place on April 26, 2022, unless a primary for the U.S. House or Senate advances to a runoff. In that case, the general election for these municipalities will take place on May 17, 2022.

For municipalities using the nonpartisan plurality method (e.g., Greenville), the general election will take place on March 8, 2022.  

Filing Deadlines

For municipalities that revise their district maps on or before Nov. 17, the candidate filing period for the 2022 elections will open on Dec. 6 and close on Dec. 17. 

For municipalities that revise their district maps between Nov. 18 and Dec. 17, the candidate filing period will open on Jan. 3, 2022, and close on Jan. 7, 2022.  

Municipalities that wish to proceed with at-large elections as scheduled in 2021 must notify their county election boards within five days of the opening of the candidate filing period.   

At least one other state, Illinois, has postponed statewide 2022 primaries by three months in response to the delay.

Stay tuned for more updates as we follow these changes closely throughout the redistricting cycle.