The state House approved Wednesday legislation that would delay this year’s elections for 35 municipalities until 2022.
The House approved Senate Bill 722 by a 107-0 following the inclusion of changes that would affect school board elections with Lexington City Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
The bill passed the Senate by a 46-0 vote on June 3. The Senate would have to approve or reject changes made by the House.
Greensboro, Hickory, Lexington and Statesville are among municipalities affected by SB722, since their council seats are determined by districts, rather than being all at-large.
Also among the affected: Cary, Charlotte, Fayetteville, Mooresville and Raleigh.
Election timing can be changed only by the General Assembly. SB722 is a public bill and subject to veto by Gov. Roy Cooper.
One change made Wednesday by the House is that there would be no election this year for the Lexington City Board of Education.
The timing of the 2022 election would be subject to whether the board receives the 2020 federal census information by July 19, 2021. Board members whose terms would have expired on Dec. 6 could remain in that term for up to another year.
SB722 also includes language that would permanently switch Raleigh municipal elections to even-numbered years, including what would have been the November 2021 election to Nov. 8, 2022.
Another amendment would give affected municipalities the option to conduct an election this year for at-large offices and mayor, and in 2022 for those offices determined by districts and wards.
In most instances under SB722, primaries would be held on March 8 and the general election on April 26.
Unaffected are 2021 primaries and general elections in Bethania, Clemmons, Kernersville, Lewisville, Rural Hall, Tobaccoville and Walkertown.
The Winston-Salem City Council would have been affected by the changes made to SB722 because of its ward system. However, the next election for council members and the mayor won’t be until 2024.
There had been discussions about introducing legislation that would have delayed all 2021 municipal elections. That option has had the support of Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the state’s Board of Elections.
SB722 bill sponsors, however chose to limit the impact following input from the N.C. League of Municipalities and a group of mayors that included Mike Horn of Lewisville.
Horn said on May 28 that Lewisville town leaders share the belief that holding elections in odd years is beneficial so that the races aren’t overshadowed by presidential, congressional and statewide campaigns.
Municipalities reliant on districts and wards redraw those boundaries every decade, adjusting to population changes.
However, because the 2020 Census data isn’t expected to be available until late summer or early fall, the data won’t be accessible in time to allow for adjustments on the planned 2021 election schedules.
Current elected officials would have their terms in office extended by the bill.
Affected municipalities would be required to revise their districts and submit their plans to their county board of commissioners and/or county board of elections by Nov. 19.
In that instance, the filing period would go from noon Dec. 6 to noon Dec. 17.
If a municipality is unable to meet the Nov. 19 deadline, it would have until Dec. 17 with a filing period of noon Jan. 3 to noon Jan. 7.