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Stories about North Carolina

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.

Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina end mask requirements

Three states ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between May 14 and May 20.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) ended the statewide mask requirement on May 14. Masks are still required for unvaccinated visitors to nursing homes, prisons, and hospitals, and in certain school settings. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people must still comply with federal law, which requires masking on public transportation and at public transportation hubs like bus stations and airports.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) ended the statewide mask mandate on May 15. The state still requires vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks in schools and hospitals, as well as on public transportation.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D) ended the statewide mask mandate for vaccinated and unvaccinated people on May 14. Masks are still required for all people, regardless of vaccination status, on public transportation and in healthcare settings.

Additionally, at least eight more states amended their existing mask orders to align with the CDC guidance issued May 13, exempting fully vaccinated individuals from most indoor mask requirements. Those states are Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

Thirty-nine states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. Twenty-one states had statewide mask orders at the time of this writing, including 17 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and four out of the 27 states with Republican governors. 

Of those 21 states, six required masks for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Fifteen states exempted fully vaccinated people.

Of the 18 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 12 have Republican governors, and six have Democratic governors. Fifteen states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.

New apportionment data released – six states gain congressional seats, seven states lose seats

On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau released it post-2020 census apportionment counts. Six states—Texas (two seats), Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon—gained seats. Seven states—California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—each lost a seat.

Of the six states that gained congressional seats, three are Republican trifectas (Texas, Florida, and Montana), meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both state legislative chambers in each. Two (Colorado and Oregon) are Democratic trifectas, and one (North Carolina) is a divided government.

Of the seven states that lost congressional seats, three (California, Illinois, and New York) are Democratic trifectas, two (Ohio and West Virginia) are Republican trifectas, and two (Michigan and Pennsylvania) are divided governments.

What is apportionment, and how does it work? Every ten years, the nation conducts the census, a complete count of the U.S. population. The data gleaned from the census determines congressional apportionment. Apportionment is the process by which the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are allotted to the states on the basis of population, as required under Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution. A state can gain seats in the House if its population grows – or lose seats if its population decreases – relative to populations in other states.

After the first census (1790), the 105 members of U.S. House represented about 34,000 residents each. Now, the 435 members of the House will represent an average of 761,169 residents each.

The 2020 census: According to the 2020 census, the resident population of the United States, as of April 1, 2020, was 331,449,281, representing a 7.4 percent increase over the 2010 population. California remained the most populous state with 39,538,223 residents. The population of Texas, the only state to gain multiple congressional seats from apportionment, grew by nearly 4 million residents between 2010 and 2020, reaching 29,145,505. Utah was the fastest-growing state: its population increased by 18.4 percent between 2010 and 2020, reaching 3,271,616.

The census is a complex undertaking. First, the Census Bureau collects data. This involves making a list of every residence (including houses, apartments, dorms, etc.) in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories; asking members of each household in the country to complete the census survey; and following up with those households that did not submit surveys. The Census Bureau then must process the data. This involves making a final list of residential addresses, cross-checking for duplicate responses, and processing write-in responses. The Census Bureau also uses imputation, a statistical method applied “in rare instances” that enables the Census Bureau “to fill in missing information using what we already know about an address and its nearest, similar neighbor.” Typically, upon final processing of the data, the Census Bureau delivers state population and apportionment counts by December 31 in the year of the census. Detailed redistricting data follows by April 1 of the next year.

On November 19, 2020, Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham announced that, “during post-collection processing, certain processing anomalies [had] been discovered.” Dillingham said that he had directed the bureau “to utilize all resources available to resolve this as expeditiously as possible.” On January 27, 2021, Kathleen Styles, a Census Bureau official, announced that the final apportionment report would be delivered by April 30, 2021.

What comes next: The Census Bureau has not yet delivered redistricting data to the states. Upon announcing the 2020 apportionment counts, Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin said, “Our work doesn’t stop here. Now that the apportionment counts are delivered, we will begin the additional activities needed to create and deliver the redistricting data that were previously delayed due to COVID-19.” The Census Bureau expects to deliver the raw data to the states by August 16. The “full redistricting data with toolkits for ease of us” will be delivered by September 30.

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North Carolina releases new school reopening guidance

On Feb. 2, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced new school guidance and encouraged public K-12 schools to reopen for full-time in-person instruction. The guidance says elementary schools should reopen under Plan A, which does not require social distancing. Middle and high schools should reopen under Plan B, which does require social distancing. Districts still have to provide a remote learning option for families that choose to opt in to remote learning. 

Cooper said he wants to leave the final reopening decisions to school districts. Previously, the state only permitted hybrid or fully remote instruction for middle and high school students.


• Washington, D.C. has a district-ordered school closure.

• Five states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, N.M., W.Va.) has state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.

• Four states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, Texas) has state-ordered in-person instruction.

• Forty-one states leave decisions to schools or districts.

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Election still undecided in New York’s 22nd Congressional District

Results in the Nov. 3 U.S. House election in New York’s 22nd Congressional District have not yet been certified. The latest vote count, completed on Dec. 30, showed former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) with a 29-vote lead over incumbent Anthony Brindisi (D). This race was one of 56 U.S. House rematches from 2018, when Brindisi defeated Tenney 51% to 49%.

Litigation over the validity of certain absentee and affidavit ballots began the day following the election and is ongoing. Problems with mislaid ballots, missing documentation of ballot challenges, and errors in vote tabulation slowed the process.

Oswego County Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte has not made a final ruling on these issues, and official results have not been certified. DelConte also asked both campaigns to file legal briefs by Jan. 14 on 2,418 voter registration applications submitted through the Department of Motor Vehicles that the county board of elections did not process before election day. These voters had the option to cast an affidavit ballot, but these ballots weren’t counted since it appeared the voters weren’t registered. At least 63 affidavit ballots from this group are being reviewed.

Final oral arguments on all court proceedings in the case are scheduled for Jan. 22.

Here are some other recent elections where the result was not confirmed until weeks after the elections:

  1. In 2018, the North Carolina Board of Elections did not certify the results in the 9th Congressional District race and voted unanimously to call for a new election on Feb. 21, 2019. Rep. Dan Bishop (R) won the special election on Sept. 10, 2019. 
  2. In the 2016 North Carolina governor’s race, incumbent Pat McCrory (R) conceded on Dec. 5, 2016, after a recount in Durham County verified that Roy Cooper (D) would remain ahead. 
  3. In 2014, Martha McSally (R) was declared the winner over incumbent Ron Barber (D) in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District at the conclusion of a recount on Dec. 17, 2014.

Republicans pick up two seats on North Carolina Supreme Court

The results of the 2020 election affected the partisan composition of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Going into the election, Democrats had a 6-1 majority on the court. Republicans held one seat and picked up two net seats, giving Democrats a 4-3 majority.

Paul Martin Newby (R) defeated Cheri Beasley (D) in the partisan November 3 election for the chief justice seat. Tamara Barringer (R) defeated incumbent Mark Davis (D) for Seat 4 while Phil Berger Jr. (R) defeated Lucy Inman (D) for Seat 2, which was left open by Newby.

The race for the chief justice seat was especially competitive. On December 15, 2020, a hand-to-eye recount in the race for chief justice showed Newby defeated Beasley by 401 votes. Beasley had previously conceded the race on December 12.

North Carolina election law allowed statewide candidates to request a recount if 10,000 votes or 0.5% of the total votes cast (whichever was less) separated them from an election winner. On November 17, Beasley’s campaign officially requested a statewide machine recount. The statewide machine recount was completed on December 2, with Newby maintaining his lead. Following the release of results, Beasley’s campaign requested a hand-to-eye recount to be conducted in randomly selected precincts.

2022 could be another competitive year in the North Carolina Supreme Court. The seats held by justices Robin Hudson (D) and Sam Ervin (D) will be up for election on November 8, 2022, meaning Republicans could gain control of the court or Democrats could hold their majority.

Starting with the 2018 election, the seven justices on the North Carolina Supreme Court began to be chosen by partisan election. This became law in December 2016. Before that, the election of appellate judges had been nonpartisan since 2004. In the event of a midterm vacancy, the outgoing judge is replaced via assisted appointment. With the help of a judicial nominating commission, the governor appoints a successor to serve until the next general election occurring more than 60 days after the vacancy occurred. A judge is then elected.

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Summary of Nov. 3 state appeals court elections — Democrats win seats in Texas, Republicans gain in North Carolina

Democrats won eight of the 24 seats up this year in Texas’ intermediate appellate courts, all of which were held by Republican judges heading into the election. Republicans made gains in North Carolina, winning all five intermediate appellate court seats up this year, four of which were held by Democratic or Democratic-aligned justices.

The Republican Party had greater partisan risk in this year’s Texas intermediate appellate court elections, defending all 24 seats up. Democratic challengers defeated six Republican incumbents and won two open seats. Republicans won 11 uncontested races. In the 2018 elections, Democratic challengers defeated 19 Republican incumbents. Forty-five seats were up that year.

Democrats had the greater partisan risk in North Carolina this year. The five intermediate appellate court seats up included one held by a Republican, two held by Democrats, and two held by judges who were appointed by a Democratic governor but have not stood for partisan election. Republicans won all five races, defeating both Democratic incumbents and winning both open seats held by appointed judges.

Thirty states held intermediate appellate court elections in 2020. Six states held partisan general elections, 11 states held nonpartisan general elections, and 15 states held retention elections (this figure includes two states that held both partisan and retention elections). There were 201 seats up for election out of 976 seats on intermediate appellate courts nationwide.

Intermediate appellate courts serve as an intermediate step between the trial courts and the courts of last resort in a state. Their jurisdiction varies from state to state.

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Tillis defeats Cunningham in U.S. Senate election in N.C.

Portrait photo of Senator Thom Tillis

Incumbent Thom Tillis (R) defeated Cal Cunningham (D), Kevin Hayes (Constitution Party), and Shannon Bray (L) in the U.S. Senate election in North Carolina. Tillis was first elected in 2014.

The race drew the most satellite spending of any congressional election in history at around $229 million. Top spenders on the Republican side included the Senate Leadership Fund, American Crossroads, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. On the Democratic side, Senate Majority PAC and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent the most. 

Roll Call listed Tillis as the fifth-most vulnerable senator up for re-election in 2020. The three senators topping their list—Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.)—lost their bids. Maine’s Susan Collins (R), who had the #4 spot, won re-election.

Thirty-five Senate seats were up for election, and the regular and special elections in Georgia remain uncalled. Democrats have flipped two seats and Republicans flipped one. Georgia’s races appear headed to runoffs, and Democrats would need to flip both to split control of the chamber 50-50. The vice president has the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.

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Gov. Roy Cooper (D) wins re-election in North Carolina 

Incumbent Gov. Roy Cooper (D) defeated Dan Forest (R), Al Pisano (C) and Steven DiFiore II (L) in the election for governor in North Carolina.

Cooper was elected in 2016 after defeating incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory (R). Cooper received 49% of the vote to McCrory’s 48.8%.

Cooper’s 2020 gubernatorial opponent, Forest, the state’s lieutenant governor, was first elected in 2012 and was re-elected in 2016 with 52% of the vote to Democrat Linda Coleman’s 45%.

Seventeen states elect governors and lieutenant governors separately. North Carolina is one of three states with a governor and lieutenant governor from different parties, along with Louisiana and Vermont. North Carolina is also one of eight states that both voted for Donald Trump (R) in 2016 and has a Democratic governor.

North Carolina is one of 14 states with a divided government. A Democrat holds the governorship and Republicans control both the state house of representatives and state senate. In the 2020 elections, Democrats would need to flip 10% of state’s senate seats and 5% of state House seats to take control of each chamber and make the state a Democratic trifecta.

Eleven states are electing a governor this year. These include seven states with Republican governors and four with Democratic governors. Ballotpedia has identified six of these races as battlegrounds, four of these in states with Republican incumbents and two in states with Democratic incumbents.

Conrad resigns from North Carolina House

At 5pm local time on July 31, North Carolina Rep. Debra Conrad (R) resigned from her position in the state legislature. She was first elected to represent District 74 in the North Carolina House in 2012.

Conrad didn’t specify the reason for her departure in her resignation letter, but told various media outlets that she is exploring lobbying roles. Upon the announcement of her resignation, Conrad said, “Lobbying is one of the exciting opportunities I am considering, as I have too much energy and passion for politics to retire. I look forward to being back in Raleigh in a new role next year.”

State legislators in North Carolina are required to have a six-month period between serving in the legislature as an elected official and registering as a lobbyist.

Conrad’s departure creates the fourth vacancy in the North Carolina House of Representatives this year and the eighth in the state legislature. July saw two other state legislators resign, former Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D) on July 16 and former Sen. Andy Wells (R) on July 27. Farmer-Butterfield left the legislature to take another state government position, whereas Wells did not give his reason for resigning beyond exploring unspecified opportunities outside the legislature.

Vacancies in the North Carolina General Assembly are filled by gubernatorial appointment. The governor must make an appointment from a recommended list of candidates selected by party committee members of the party who last held the seat. Of the eight vacancies that have occurred this year in the General Assembly, four of the seats were last held by Republican legislators and four were held by Democratic legislators. Of the four that have thus far been filled, three seats are currently held by a Democrat and one is held by a Republican. Heading into this year’s elections, the Republican Party holds a majority in both chambers of the state legislature.

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