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CMS To Ask Legislators For The Ability To Delay Election To 2022

Gwendolyn Glenn
CMS lobbyist Charles Jeter said the school district will ask the General Assembly for the ability to delay its fall election to 2022.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools said Friday it will ask the North Carolina General Assembly for the option of postponing its fall election until 2022 because of delays in the release of census data.

The U.S. Census Bureau said Friday that detailed data used to draw new political maps is being delayed for a second time. Instead of being released on July 30, the data won’t be ready until Sept. 30. That data would usually be released in late winter or early spring, but the census has fallen behind because of the pandemic.

Charles Jeter, who heads governmental affairs for CMS, said the delay will make it even harder for the school board to hold its elections.

“There’s only so much we can do about the data,” he said. “And frankly if we don’t get the data until Sept. 30th I don’t know how that timeline works for a November election.”

Thirty years ago, legislators passed a law that allows North Carolina municipalities to delay their elections if they can’t draw new district maps on time. That means the city of Charlotte can delay its fall elections for City Council and mayor.

But Jeter says that 1990 law doesn’t apply to school boards and counties. He said he doesn’t know if CMS will delay its election, but the school district needs that option.

Filing for positions on the school board and City Council and for mayor opens in late July. The city’s primaries are in mid-September and the general election is in early November. The school board doesn’t have primaries.

The city and CMS could hold their elections as planned with old maps. But because the size of their districts are no longer more-or-less the same size, they risk being sued for violating the U.S. Supreme Court’s principle of “One Person, One Vote.”

North Carolina courts have also said that districts can’t be 5% larger or smaller than another district in the same jurisdiction.

There are roughly 40 counties in North Carolina with district elections this fall.

City Council member Larken Egleston said he hopes the General Assembly gives those counties guidance. One possibility is that legislators delay elections for all impacted cities, counties and school districts.

Mayor Vi Lyles has asked a City Council committee to study its options for the election.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.