Congressional primary moved to June 7
North Carolina will now have two primary elections in 2016 as lawsuits challenging the state’s districting maps continue to play out in court.
The March 15 primary election will continue as planned for local, state and presidential races, but the congressional races will be moved to a June 7 primary election. The additional election will cost North Carolina taxpayers more than $9 million.
The North Carolina General Assembly drew new legislative and congressional district maps in 2011 and held elections under those maps in 2012 and 2014. Those maps are being challenged in four different lawsuits claiming Republican legislators gerrymandered the maps. The state Supreme Court upheld the maps twice but federal judges threw out the 1st and 12th congressional districts on Feb. 5.
The state then received a federal trial court order to suspend the current congressional election, and on Feb. 19 the North Carolina Senate passed legislation establishing the new date for the congressional primary.
To make things more confusing, some state leaders are telling voters they should still cast a vote for U.S. representative candidates on March 15 since the names will still be on the ballot. The legislature has requested a stay of the trial court’s decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. If granted, the stay would allow the March 15 primary to go forward for all races including for U.S. House, as originally planned.
Casting ballots in this election will ensure North Carolinians’ votes are counted despite the uncertainty created by the trial court’s order.
“While we wish North Carolina voters didn’t have to deal with the chaos, confusion and costliness associated with a federal trial court’s 11th hour changing of the current primary election, we hope this legislation will at least bring some clarity and order back into the process,” said Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) in a press release. “It is vitally important that all voters continue to cast ballots in every race to ensure their voices are heard no matter what the courts ultimately decide.”
The new primary legislation also says the filing period for congressional candidates will reopen from March 16-25 and runoffs will not be held in order to save money. If the state is not granted the stay, congressional votes for candidates in the March 15 race will remain confidential.
Currently there are two candidates running for District 12 U.S. Representative in the primary election — Rick Bryson, D-Bryson City, and Tom Hill, D-Zirconia. The winner of the primary will face off against incumbent Mark Meadows, R-Cashiers, in the general election in November. Meadows is currently serving his second consecutive two-year term in Congress since first being elected in 2012.