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Stories about North Carolina

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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NC state Senator resigns

North Carolina legislator Andy Wells (R) resigned from his seat in the state senate on July 27. He had represented District 42 in the chamber since 2015 and previously represented District 96 in the North Carolina House of Representatives from 2013 to 2015.

Wells did not file to run for re-election to his seat in the North Carolina State Senate this year, running instead for Lieutenant Governor. He lost to Mark Robinson in the Republican primary on March 3, coming in second place with 14.6% of the vote to Robinson’s 32.5%. Wells did not give a reason why he left his seat in the state legislature just under six months before the end of his term.

Wells’ departure creates the fourth vacancy in the North Carolina State Senate this year, two of which have not yet been filled. The other current vacancy in the chamber was created when Jerry W. Tillman (R), who represented District 26, unexpectedly resigned from his seat on June 30. Vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment.

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Farmer-Butterfield appointed to Division of Employment Security, resigns from North Carolina House

After initial uncertainty about whether she would have to leave the state legislature, Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D) officially resigned from the North Carolina House of Representatives on July 16. Farmer-Butterfield had represented District 24 in the chamber since 2003 and served as majority whip from 2006 to 2010.
On July 15, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) selected Farmer-Butterfield to serve on the Board of Review at the Division of Employment Security. The board handles appeals of unemployment benefit award decisions. The North Carolina State Senate confirmed Farmer-Butterfield’s nomination. When asked in her confirmation hearing if she planned to maintain her role as state senator, Farmer-Butterfield said, “I think they are checking to see if I can still do both.” She stepped down from the state legislature the following day.
Farmer-Butterfield filed for re-election this year and advanced from the Democratic primary on March 3. Democratic Party officials in her district will appoint someone to both finish the remainder of her unexpired term and run in the general election this fall. Farmer-Butterfield’s replacement will face Republican Mick Rankin in the Nov. 3 race. The Republican primary in the district was canceled.

Four state legislators resign at the end of June

Four state legislators in three states stepped down from their positions on June 30, bringing the number of state legislative vacancies that have occurred this year to 75.

The former legislators had a cumulative total of more than sixty years of legislative experience among them. Gary Jackson (R) had served in the Mississippi State Senate since 2004. Gary Chism (R), another Mississippi legislator, first began serving in the state’s House of Representatives in 2000. Jerry W. Tillman (R), who left the North Carolina State Senate, was first elected to the chamber in 2002. Chris Richey (D) first joined the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2013.

The process by which state legislative vacancies are filled varies by state. In both chambers of the Mississippi state legislature and in the Arkansas House of Representatives, the governor must call a special election to fill the vacant seat. In the North Carolina Senate, the governor is responsible for appointing a replacement senator.

As of July 2020, 48 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for this year in 25 states. The elections will decide 17 previously Democratic and 31 previously Republican seats. The partisan composition of state legislatures nationwide as of July 1 is 46.8% Democratic and 52.2% Republican, which has remained consistent since April of this year.

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