The N.C. General Assembly voted along party lines Wednesday to move the 2022 primary election back three weeks from May 17 to June 7.
The Senate passed the measure, House Bill 605, with a 26-17 vote, while the House approved the change, 69-50.
“The bill will alleviate voter confusion,” said Senate Elections Committee Chair Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke.
Moving the primary date to early June would ensure the General Assembly has time to redraw legislative and congressional district maps if ordered to do so by the Democrat-controlled N.C. Supreme Court.
“Oral arguments are set for Feb. 2, and we know the board of elections needs the maps completed by Feb. 18. That results in a relatively short time to redraw maps if this body has to redraw maps,” said Rep. Dustin Hall, R-Caldwell, chairman of the House Redistricting Committee.
“House Bill 605 seeks to ensure that the upcoming elections are conducted in an orderly fashion,” said Rep. Grey Mills, R-Iredell.
Legislative Democrats were united in their opposition to the bill. House Minority Leader Robert Reives, D-Chatham, said if the Supreme Court strikes down the maps he fully expects justices will give the General Assembly time to redraw the maps.
“They are going to give us time,” he told colleagues in the House. “How do we know this? We know that because we just went through this two years ago and we had plenty of time to draw the maps. We don’t need to interfere with the courts.”
Legislators supporting the move to June are concerned that the schedule adopted by the Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments on redistricting on Feb. 2, could open the door to the court drawing its own maps to meet deadlines for a May 17 primary and the re-start of candidate filing, which has been set by the courts for Feb. 24.
State law requires the court to give the General Assembly two weeks to adjust the maps.
Gov. Roy Cooper has hinted a veto is coming without directly saying so, but he has made his opposition clear.
“The three-judge panel during the trial has already found as fact that the maps drawn by Republicans are intentional, partisan gerrymanders,” according to the statement from Cooper’s office. “The Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of these districts, and legislators should avoid additional attempts to undermine the voting process.”
Moving the primary could avoid a constitutional crisis that would likely be sparked if the court were to impose maps on the General Assembly without giving legislators the opportunity to correct any flaws.
The Woodshed, by investigative political analyst Dallas Woodhouse, is a unique blend of news and opinion based on his expertise and years of experience in North Carolina’s political trenches. For more follow him on Twitter at @DallasWoodhouse