North Carolina measure delaying 2021 local elections becomes law

Law passed after COVID-19 and natural disasters delayed the release of the U.S. Census Bureau data used to determine redistributing.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper
Jeff Hahne / Contributor/ Getty

Some municipal elections will be delayed this year after a bill that rescheduled the elections to 2022 automatically became law in North Carolina.

The COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters delayed the release of the U.S. Census Bureau data used to determine local population counts, officials said. That data was scheduled to be published in spring, but it will not be delivered to states until Sept. 30. Therefore, local governments will not be able to determine voting districts.

The Senate approved Senate Bill 722, 33-24, on June 14. The House voted unanimously on June 9 to approve the measure. Cooper had 10 days to sign or vetoed the measure before it automatically becomes law.

"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," Cooper said in a statement Friday.

SB 722 pushes municipal elections to 2022 in races where less than the entire jurisdiction is eligible to vote. Out of the 500 municipalities set to hold their elections in 2021, about 35 to 40 have district races, lawmakers said. At-large elections in those districts still can be in 2021, under the measure.

Winning candidates still would have the same term expiration date they would've had if the election took place in 2021. Voters can register to vote between the first primary and any second primary and vote in that second primary just for the 2022 election. The municipalities elections' will be held March 8, 2022.

The bill also moves Raleigh municipal elections to even-numbered years and changes it to nonpartisan plurality. It also would delay the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and the Lexington City Board of Education regular 2021 elections to 2022.

The census data shows North Carolina's population increased from 9,565,781 after the 2010 census to 10,453,948 after the 2020 census.