Primary election, filing dates delayed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Ever since Thanksgiving of last year, the battle over redistricting maps has continued to increase tension between Democrats and Republicans.

Republicans protested the proposed maps submitted by the Democratic majority and filed suit against the party on the grounds of redrawing the maps to unfairly favor Democratic interests.

As a result of a North Carolina statue, the state Board of Elections was forced to postpone the May 4 primary to July 20.

The statute, which was adopted by the General Assembly, requires the Board of Elections to delay the primaries in the event that Federal Judges had not yet approved the legislative redistricting maps.

According to a press release from the North Carolina Republican Party, the Federal Court has not had enough time to render an opinion as to whether the adopted maps are in compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act, however, an April 13 trial date has been designated for the review the matter.

In the release, NC Republican Party Chairman Ferrell Blount expressed that he felt, &uot;This was a deliberate tactic by the Democratic leadership&uot; stating that Democrats &uot;are employing their version of the four-corner offense.&uot;

Blount added, &uot;They are trying to run down the clock by shortening the time between the primary election and the general election so Republican nominees will have less time to campaign.&uot;

As a result of the situation, the state Board of Elections has issued an altered election schedule. &uot;The main difference, other than the dates changing, is that the filing period has been shortened by a week,&uot; said Northampton County Board of Elections Director, Tonya Pitts.

&uot;My office is handling this as just another chapter in the redistricting saga. We realize that the election schedule released Monday is also subject to change. The State Board of Elections is basically setting the dates as late as possible while still allowing for a second primary, if needed, as required by the new statute.&uot;

Election dates are rescheduled with filing for candidates opening April 26 and closing May 7 with ballot preparation at 23 days and absentee voting beginning May 31.

Canvassing for votes cast in the primary election held on July 20 will be available July 27.

Should the need for a second primary manifest the event will be scheduled for August 17 with canvassing to take place on August 24. Absentee voting would begin September 13. The new schedule will be employed assuming that no election protests or appeals arise.

Since the decision of the State Board of Elections, the NC Democratic Party has implemented its contingency Delegate Selection Plan and according to a press release from the party’s office, will hold presidential preference county caucuses to select delegates to the Democratic National Convention in at least one location per county on April 17.

&uot;The Democrats’ tactics is deplorable,&uot; said Blount. &uot;They would sacrifice voter’s participation in a Presidential Preference Primary so they can have their gerrymandered maps. It’s the only way they can win.&uot;

According to the GOP press release, the democratic leadership of the General Assembly did not draw up the new legislative redistricting maps until November 2003 even though they had been aware that the maps would have to be submitted and approved by the Federal government since 2002.

District maps are required by state statute to be reviewed every 10 years to account for shifts in population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau.

&uot;We would not be in this situation if the Democrat leadership in the General Assembly did not wait until the week of Thanksgiving to introduce new maps. It is their procrastination that put us in this situation,&uot; said Blount.

R-C News Herald attempted to contact Hertford County Board of Elections Director, Shelia Fleetwood, but was unable to obtain comment.