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The 2022 midterm elections are the first of the Biden era. They're also the first since the 2020 census, which means there are new congressional districts. There are U.S. Senate races in the Carolinas as well, along with many state and local races.

North Carolina’s May 17 primary will help determine the state legislature’s future

North Carolina General Assembly
Nick de la Canal
/
WFAE

This year’s election will determine the balance of power in Congress. But it’ll also have impacts across the political spectrum, including at the state level in North Carolina. It’s an election year for the General Assembly. While Election Day isn’t until November, the May 17 primary gives voters a chance to narrow down the candidates.

What exactly is the North Carolina General Assembly?

The North Carolina General Assembly is basically the state’s version of Congress. There are two chambers, the state House and the state Senate, and their members are responsible for writing North Carolina’s laws and allocating money for the state budget — things like pay raises for state employees and funding for transportation projects. The General Assembly also has the power to draw political maps — including the ones that shape districts they run in — every 10 years.

Once the two chambers work out a bill, they send it to the governor for a signature. The governor can veto legislation. The General Assembly can override the governor’s veto, but it needs a three-fifths majority in each chamber to pull that off.

Unlike executive-level elected positions in North Carolina (governor, attorney general, superintendent and so forth), which are decided by all voters in the state, General Assembly members are picked by voters in specific districts.

What is the primary?

When you go to vote in November, your choices are kind of limited — one Republican candidate for a position, one Democrat, one Libertarian and so on. Well, those are the candidates who were chosen by voters during the primaries to represent their parties. The idea of a primary is that when multiple people want to run for their party’s nomination for a particular job, the one who is most popular with voters in the primary advances to the general election. Think of it like the screening round of a job interview. Primaries tend to get less attention than general elections because they’re not that final job interview, so to speak.

But in districts that heavily favor one political party, the person who wins the primary is probably more likely to win the general election by default. If you want a good example, look to North Carolina’s mountains. Election forecasters expect a Republican to win the 11th U.S. House District there in November, which is why there’s a lot of focus right now on the Republican primary — with controversial incumbent Rep. Madison Cawthorn facing multiple challengers from his own party. There are even some typically Democratic voters who are voting in the GOP primary in an attempt to lower Cawthorn’s chances of winning.

Who can vote in the primary?

Any registered voter in North Carolina can vote in the May 17 primary. But again, the rules are a bit different from those of a general election, in which you can vote for any candidate. But the primaries are partisan — aka party specific. That means registered Democrats can only vote in the Democratic primary and registered Republicans can only vote in the Republican primary.

Unaffiliated voters, on the other hand, can vote in either primary — but they have to pick one and stick with it. In other words, they can’t vote in both.

Who’s in the North Carolina state House primary in the Charlotte area?

Here’s a quick rundown of which candidates for the North Carolina House will be in the May 17 primary. (Note: Candidates that will be on the ballot in November but don’t have primary challengers aren’t included in this list.)

Mecklenburg County

Gaston County

Iredell County

Catawba County

  • District 89 (Republican): Benjamin Devine, Kelli Weaver Moore, Mitchell Smith Setzer

Cabarrus County

Rowan County

  • District 83 (Republican): Kevin Crutchfield, Grayson Haff, Brad Jenkins

Union County

  • District 55 (Republican): Brandon Smith, Mark Brody

Anson County

  • District 55 (Republican): Brandon Smith, Mark Brody

Who’s in the North Carolina state Senate primary in the Charlotte area?

Here’s a quick rundown of which candidates for the North Carolina Senate will be in the May 17 primary. (Note: Candidates that will be on the ballot in November but don’t have primary challengers aren’t included in this list.)

Mecklenburg County

Iredell County

  • District 37 (Republican): Tom Fyler, Vickie Sawyer

Which North Carolina General Assembly districts am I in? 

You can type your address in these interactive maps provided by the state:

How can I vote?

You can vote in person in two ways for the primary. First, you can vote on election day, May 17, at your precinct. It’s important to know that you must have registered to vote by April 22 to vote in person on election day for the primary.

If you miss that registration deadline or you’d rather not deal with the lines on election day but still prefer the in-person method, you can vote early. Early voting starts on April 28 and runs through May 14. There are two key things to know: 1, you can vote at any one-stop early voting site in your county, and 2, you can register to vote on site — even if you miss that April 22 registration deadline.

You can also vote by mail. Here’s some information from the state about how to do that.

What are the important dates?

April 22 is the voter-registration deadline for the primary if you plan to vote in person on election day or by mail.

April 28 is when early, in-person voting begins.

May 10 is the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot if you want to vote by mail in the primary.

May 14 is the last day of early, in-person voting. If you didn’t already register to vote in the primary, this is your last chance — but you can only do it on site while voting early.

May 17 is election day. It’s also the last day for absentee ballots to be submitted.

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Dash joined WFAE as a digital editor for news and engagement in 2019. Before that, he was a reporter for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia, where he covered public safety and the military, among other topics. He also covered county government in Gaston County, North Carolina, for its local newspaper, the Gazette.