Why is North Carolina’s primary election delayed? What you need to know

·3 min read

The North Carolina Supreme Court, in a ruling Wednesday evening, delayed all of the state’s 2022 primary elections and halted the ongoing candidate filing period.

The decision, which came after several days of competing judicial decisions stopping and then restarting the filing period, is meant to give time for court challenges to the newly redrawn redistricting maps to be litigated, appealed and changed, if necessary.

When is North Carolina’s primary election now?

It was scheduled for March 8, 2022. But it will now be held May 17, 2022.

What elections are being delayed?

Every primary election. The general election should still happen in November as planned, but all the primaries are being pushed back until May. And that’s for everything, not just the races for U.S. House and state legislature that are implicated in the gerrymandering lawsuits. So some municipal elections are affected.

Why is NC’s primary postponed?

There are two lawsuits challenging the political district maps that Republican lawmakers recently passed as being unconstitutionally gerrymandered. The liberal plaintiffs in those cases say Democratic voters would be unfairly harmed if the elections go forward under those maps. The court didn’t rule on the main issue but delayed the primaries to give enough time for a trial to take place.

Weren’t North Carolina’s primaries normally in May?

Yes, but the legislature changed that to March recently.

Is it common for primaries to be delayed?

No, but it has happened a few times before due to redistricting lawsuits, most recently in 2016 when some primaries happened in March while others got pushed back to June.

When is the new candidate filing period?

Dates for a new filing period have not been set.

Did some candidates already file?

Yes. More than 1,400 candidates had filed statewide as of Wednesday evening, according to the State Board of Elections, including many who are running in the disputed districts. The filing period opened Monday at noon, though candidates for U.S. House and the state legislature could not file until Tuesday morning.

State Board of Elections workers huddle around a computer at the NC State Fairgrounds after a court order Monday temporarily blocked candidates from filing to run in some of the 2022 elections Monday, Dec. 6, 2021.
State Board of Elections workers huddle around a computer at the NC State Fairgrounds after a court order Monday temporarily blocked candidates from filing to run in some of the 2022 elections Monday, Dec. 6, 2021.

What happens to NC candidates who have filed?

The court said “any individual who has already filed to run for public office in 2022 and whose filing has been accepted by the appropriate board of elections, will be deemed to have filed for the same office under the new election schedule for the May 2022 primary” unless they provide timely notice of their withdrawal, or the maps change and the candidate is no longer eligible to hold that office. Any candidate who has properly withdrawn is “free to file for any other office for which they may be eligible” during the new filing period.

Will the district maps change?

The court decisions since Friday have not dealt with the constitutionality of the maps for U.S. House and state legislature that were approved on party line votes by state lawmakers. Instead, they have been about stopping the filing period and delaying the primaries.

The Supreme Court ordered that the lower court must rule on the merits of the cases by Jan. 11. Whatever it decides, the case is likely to be appealed back to the Supreme Court.

Legislative Republicans all backed the maps, while Democrats all voted against them. Outside analysis of the districts found that Republicans are likely to keep very strong majorities in the state House and Senate and win at least 10 — and possibly 11 — of the state’s 14 congressional seats.

What was the vote on the Supreme Court? Who controls the Supreme Court?

We don’t know what the vote was. The short order — less than six pages — doesn’t reveal that information. There are four Democrats and three Republicans on the Supreme Court. Democrats held a 6-1 advantage before the 2020 election.

For more North Carolina government and politics news, listen to the Under the Dome politics podcast from The News & Observer and the NC Insider. You can find it at link.chtbl.com/underthedomenc or wherever you get your podcasts.

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