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Delayed census data could affect some elections
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Census Numbers
Census Numbers

Delayed census data could affect some elections

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The filing period for municipal and school board elections this year is up in the air due to late census data.

But only two local government elections could be affected.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced in February that it will deliver redistricting data to all states by Sept. 30. It said, in part, that COVID-19-related delays resulted in delaying the bureau’s original plan to deliver the redistricting data to the states by March 31.

The delay is expected to affect city, town and school boards that elect seats by district in North Carolina. That’s where a delay in census data could affect two local elections. Affected races are expected for those boards where only those living in a particular district elect who they want for that district seat.

It appears the only local boards that could be affected by redistricting according to census data are Long View and Hickory. Some Burke County voters cast ballots in those cities’ elections.

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In Burke County, the Board of Education, the city of Morganton, and towns of Valdese and Rhodhiss have boards that represent wards or districts. However, the entirety of registered voters get to decide who wins a seat on the school board and all the voters in those towns get to decide on who is elected to those boards.

Debbie Mace, director of elections for Burke County, said the state board of elections has said that if municipalities have no district or ward attached to them, those candidates will file for election starting at noon Friday, July 2, through noon Friday, July 16.

Candidates for municipalities and/or boards of education that have districts or wards attached to them would file starting at noon Monday, July 26, through noon Friday, Aug. 31.

But that is before the census data is expected to be released.

Robert Joyce with University of North Carolina School of Government and professor of public law and government wrote about the problem in a blog titled “Time for Cities, Counties, and School Boards to Redistrict, But No Numbers!”

Joyce said every time there is a census, the new numbers are applied to electoral districts and it’s determined whether the districts have gotten out of population balance in the last 10 years. If so, the districts have to be drawn to bring the balance back, he said.

Joyce said the General Assembly could delay the 2021 elections that would be affected by the census data until the March 2022 primaries or move the primaries to May 2022. Or the General Assembly could tell those boards to hold their 2021 elections using old districts and redistrict in time for the 2023 elections, Joyce said.

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