Huntersville Wants Its 2021 Election, Even Without Redistricting
North Carolina's state elections director has recommended postponing this fall's municipal elections to 2022 because of an expected delay in redistricting due to late census data. This week, town commissioners in Huntersville said a loud "no thank you."
The town board unanimously passed a resolution saying delaying the election would violate the town charter and be a "disservice to our residents."
"An additional year to the terms we are currently serving is not adhering to the spirit of a 'government of the people, by the people, for the people,'" the resolution said.
Commissioner Stacy Phillips and Mayor John Aneralla proposed the resolution. Phillips said she was livid when she learned that elections might be postponed.
"I turned into a crazy person because nothing like that's ever happened in my lifetime," Phillips said. "This throws off how our entire town should operate. And I started immediately asking questions, and then I reached out to some of the others on my board about the resolution. And then it kind of became apparent as time went on, like, Oh, my gosh, we're really gonna have to do this."
Officials expect a delay in delivery of 2020 census numbers to the state. Those numbers are needed to help with the once-a-decade redrawing of election boundaries, whether they're city council districts, statehouse districts or congressional districts. The federal government says the data may not be delivered until September because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. That wouldn't leave enough time to draw new districts for a November election.
Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell of the North Carolina State Board of Elections said the census delay was the main reason for her recommendation that elections be postponed. She also called for a delay in the March 2022 primaries.
But here's the problem: Only 62 of North Carolina's more than 500 municipalities have districts. Others, like Huntersville, are at-large.
"So it doesn't apply to Huntersville," Phillips said.
She said pushing the election to 2022 would put local elections alongside higher-level races. She argued that it's better to hold local elections in odd-numbered years when local races are at the top of the ballot.
"And we would be so down-ballot instead of being the main attraction on the ballot, that it's really worrisome that people wouldn't vote in the town election," Phillips said.
"And the town election, to me, is the most important because local government is what impacts your daily life," she said.
It's up to the Republican-controlled General Assembly to decide whether to delay this fall's election.
Phillips said she and other town officials hope to deliver their resolution, signed by the mayor and all six commissioners, to state legislators soon.