(WGHP) — The primary election for 2022 should be staged on June 7 – if Gov. Roy Cooper is good with that.
The General Assembly today approved this second delay in the date and established a runoff election, if necessary, on July 26 — or maybe Aug. 16.
Republicans say the new schedule creates more time for the General Assembly to deal with potential changes in the maps for congressional and state races that they approved in November.
Democrats opposed it because they said the change wasn’t necessary now.
Those maps have been the subject of lawsuits that argue they were created as partisan gerrymanders designed to cement or expand Republicans’ hold on the delegations in Washington and Raleigh.
They were upheld last week by a three-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court that also reset the filing period for a primary scheduled for May 17.
But that decision was appealed by three groups of plaintiffs, and the state Supreme Court has set oral arguments on the matter for Feb. 2. Justices in December had stopped candidate filing and postponed the primary from March 8 to allow time for these cases to be tried and appeals to be heard.
Senators suggested that the uncertainly of the outcome and a tight window to ensure the final maps are in place – elections officials had set Feb. 18 as the final deadline for a primary in May – is why there was a need to change the primary date.
The only apparent impediment is whether Gov. Roy Cooper will veto the measure. On Tuesday, in a statement to WNCN-TV in Raleigh, Cooper expressed concern about the new timetable.
“The Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of these districts, and legislators should avoid additional attempts to undermine the voting process,” he told the station.
The bill also moves back the candidate filing period from Feb. 24-March 4 – a window set last week by the three-judge panel — to March 24-April 1.
Some lawmakers, though, had been concerned about the runoff election, which some of them feared would be eliminated, leaving races to winner-take-all, no matter the number of candidates.
State law requires a runoff in primaries if the leading vote-getter among three or more candidates fails to receive at least 30% of the total votes.
Gerry Cohen, an elections official from Wake County, pointed out on Twitter that some districts have federal second primaries, which could affect the dates for runoffs.
“All second primaries will be the same day,” he wrote. “If there are ANY federal second primaries, ALL 2nd primaries will be August 16. If there are no federal 2nd primaries, all other 2nd primaries will be July 26.”
“If there’s no runoff, the one with the most votes wins,” state Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) told WGHP on Tuesday. “You could have a fringe candidate get 10 percent of the vote and win.”
Candidates had filed in many of those races before the practice was stopped, but those were most for judicial and local races.
The city of Greensboro, its elections delayed from November 2021 because of delays in census data required to establish district lines, is one of numerous municipal elections on the ballot.
This change would mean the council wouldn’t seat its new members until seven or eight months had passed in the four-year terms they would serve.
Lawmakers say they would need time to draft and approve any maps the Supreme Court might require. New maps were ordered by the courts for various elections in 2016, 2018 and 2020.
“Personally, I feel like it seems premature to pass this legislation based on what Supreme Court is going to do. If the Supreme court agrees with the three-judge panel, it’s not necessary to move the primary,” Harrison said.