Why census data could delay your local election

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A lot depends on the 2020 census – including how much North Carolina gets in federal funding, whether the state gets an additional seat in Congress (which will happen) and what future elections will look like based on who lives where.

But, the kicker is that the census is delayed.

So counties and cities won’t get their new numbers until August and that throws a wrench in district elections.

“When there are district changes the maps are redrawn, the lines have to be overlaid with voter registration and so forth, it takes us about two months to complete that process,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

With the candidate filing deadline in July and census data not arriving until August, the State Board of Elections has a timing issue.

There is also the fairness equation.

“When the census data is 10 years old, municipal leaders have to decide are those districts designed fairly any longer or is it best to move forward with districts that are more representative of that municipality,” said Brinson Bell.

Raleigh is one of the cities in the state that has district elections.

Raleigh City Council Member David Cox said, “My understanding is that holding an election without balanced districts would be unconstitutional and that it will not be possible to receive the census data in time to redraw the district lines. If moving the election date allows us to hold a constitutional election, then I support doing so. At this time, I don’t think we have any option other than to move the date. The plus side is that moving the election will result in a bigger turnout which is good for democracy.”

Cox represents District B.

The North Carolina Senate is now moving forward on a bill that would allow local boards whether city, county or boards of education to decide whether to go ahead with the election as scheduled or wait until next year.

That would give them time re-draw the districts, like those in Raleigh, fairly.

Brinson Bell said she’s hopeful the law will pass.

“We’re optimistic they’re going to come to some resolution.”

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