Legislative Republicans are likely to vote to delay North Carolina’s primary elections until June, multiple sources confirm to Carolina Journal. Moving the primary date would ensure the General Assembly has time to redraw legislative and congressional district maps if ordered to do so by the Democrat-controlled state Supreme Court.
All state and local primary elections are scheduled now for May 17, based on an order from the state’s highest court. The court had delayed the original March 8 primary date because of an ongoing legal dispute tied to election maps.
Legislators are concerned about a schedule adopted by the Supreme Court for addressing redistricting lawsuits. The court will hear arguments on redistricting on Feb. 2. That date could open the door for the court to draw its own maps to meet deadlines for the May 17 primary. The May primary date prompted the N.C. State Board of Elections to ask courts to reopen candidate filing on Feb. 24. A three-judge panel endorsed that candidate filing schedule when issuing a ruling upholding the election maps.
The state Senate is set to return to Raleigh Tuesday, Jan. 18, to set the date for runoff elections for municipal races. Senators could take up a measure to delay the primary at that time.
State House members held discussions about the issue over the weekend. Sources tell CJ momentum is growing for the lower chamber to vote to move the primary when it returns to Raleigh on Wednesday, Jan. 19.
Moving the primary could help avoid a constitutional crisis. Such a crisis could be sparked if the court tries to impose new election maps without giving the General Assembly the opportunity to correct any flaws.
Delaying the primary could further boost the U.S. Senate campaign of Democrat Cheri Beasley. Beasley, her party’s clear front-runner, would benefit from a competitive GOP primary continuing to eat up time and money. Democrats have largely coalesced around the former state Supreme Court chief justice. As reflected by the latest John Locke Foundation Civitas Poll of GOP primary voters, the Republican primary is developing into a close, expensive, and bitter contest.
Carolina Journal has opined that only a radical State Supreme Court could find that the state Constitution prohibits “extreme partisan” redistricting, define what that means, and force a new and untested standard on an unwilling General Assembly in time for the 2022 elections.
Some legislators are pushing their leadership for an aggressive response should the court’s Democrats attempt to impose maps on the General Assembly and/or usurp the General Assembly’s enumerated mapmaking powers. Other than the power to impeach the justices, it is unclear what the General Assembly could do.