Mark this on your calendar: City Council’s 2021 elections will now be in spring 2022, with a primary March 8 and the general election on April 26.
Why: The council and mayor are usually up in odd-numbered years. But the U.S. Census Bureau is behind schedule with the release of the 2020 census data, which local governments must use to create new district maps. The census numbers usually come in in late March, but this year could be as late as September 30.
- The General Assembly responded to the census delay by moving back municipal elections until next year, per the N&O.
The state of play: Charlotte elects seven district representatives and four at-large members.
- Council could’ve opted to proceed this fall with at-large and the mayoral races, since those individuals are elected by the city as a whole and don’t need district data.
- But on Monday the council voted against splitting up the local election.
Of note: The primary will be the same day as the 2022 U.S. Senate primary, so expect high interest there. We’ll see how many people show up for an all-local April general.
- In the 2010 Senate primary runoff, held about a month after that year’s first primary, only about 8,000 people of the nearly 600,000 Mecklenburg voters then turned out (1.4%).
Why it matters: Happy or frustrated with the way things are in Charlotte? Local elections are your best chance to make change.
What they’re saying: Arguments about whether or not to bifurcate (split) the elections became heated at Monday’s council meeting. As with countless other issues these days, the matter split over party lines — both among public speakers and council members.
Republicans favored splitting the election:
- By delaying the elections, they argued, district members are effectively extending their own terms without voters’ consent.
- Attorney Larry Shaheen, a Republican strategist, said there is no legal justification for delaying the mayoral and at-large races. “I find it abhorrent that people would say that delaying a regularly scheduled election is disenfranchisement,” Shaheen told city council.
Democrats, on the other hand, wanted to keep all elections together:
- Municipal elections draw low turnout already, they said, and splitting the races would push that number down even more.
- Charlotte NAACP president Corine Mack noted that if the elections were split, and if someone lost an at-large race in the fall, they could “double-dip,” or run for a district seat in the spring. “That violates democracy,” Mack said.
According to city estimates, splitting the election would have cost taxpayers roughly $850,000.
The meeting got so contentious at one point that Mayor Vi Lyles called for a five-minute break. Before the meeting resumed, Lyles murmured: “You know this is bad because they’ve got me eating Cheetos.”