Charlotte City Council elections may be delayed until 2022

CHARLOTTE — The city of Charlotte appears poised to delay elections until 2022 due to a late release of data from the US Census Bureau.

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced data won’t be released until September. The city of Charlotte needs that information to redraw districts.

There’s a constitutional principle commonly known as “one man, one vote,” and it requires all districts to be about the same size. North Carolina legal decisions have indicated they need to be within 5% of each other in size. Charlotte hasn’t drawn new boundary lines since 2010 and some districts are lopsided. The biggest have about 150,000 residents and the smallest have around 120,000.

If the city opts to delay elections until 2022, all current members of the city council will get another year in office. The 2022 election would be for a one-year term.

If the city holds an election in 2021 with the current districts, lawsuits will likely be filed. City Attorney Patrick Baker told the Charlotte City Council’s Budget and Effectiveness Committee that he isn’t in favor of elections in 2021.

“I think it would be a real problem legally to move forward with the 2021 elections based on the information that has been presented on our current districts,” Baker said.

District elections are also on the ballot for CMS. If CMS postpones their elections, the city will not be able to put the sales tax referendum on the 2021 ballot because it is not allowed to stand alone, according to the city attorney.

The city is also not able to only hold at-large and mayoral elections because more time would be needed to implement a change in city election structure. Any proposal for staggered four-year terms would need to be implemented in the following election.

The Charlotte City Council will discuss and possibly vote on delaying the election until 2022 on Monday.

The city estimates census data will have to arrive at the latest July 21 for there to be a shot at holding elections in 2021. If the city holds elections in 2022, they will be aligned with the other elections in Mecklenburg County. Filing will be in December 2021. The primary will be in March, second primary in April and the general election will be in November.