Charlotte City Council mulls deferring election because of delayed census data

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Updated: Feb. 16, 2021 at 2:24 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A consequential election for Charlotte residents in November might be deferred until 2022 because census data won’t be available until the end of September.

That census data is needed to re-district Charlotte City Council, and an election before that happens, might not even be legal.

During a Budget and Effectiveness Committee meeting, Councilmember Ed Driggs said that data provided by the planning department indicated there was a discrepancy of 20 to 30 percent between the council’s biggest and smallest districts.

Legal rulings at the national and state level say that difference can be no bigger than 5-10 percent so that every residents’ vote is equal.

Because of that challenge, the council will discuss the possibility of deferring municipal elections at their next meeting on Monday.

That could potentially have consequences on other major ballot initiatives that were planned for November.

As part of the city’s mobility plan, leaders are considering a referendum on a one-cent sales tax to pay for improvements and construction to light rail, roads, sidewalks, greenways and bus routes.

However, City Attorney Patrick Baker said that referendums such as the sales tax question can’t stand alone on a ballot.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education has already discussed postponing their elections for 2021. If both the school board and council were to defer their elections, the referendum would likely have to wait.

Driggs said that delaying the referendum might be in the best interest for the project so both city leaders and residents could get a better idea of where the mobility plan is headed.

The decision on delaying the election could be taken out of the council’s hands altogether.

Baker indicated that the General Assembly was discussing the issue of census data and elections and could end up reaching their own decision.

“We need to know whether they’re going to chime in or sit on the sidelines,” Baker said.

A delay in the elections could also give the governance committee more time to flesh out proposals on increasing council length terms and adding an additional district.

There are also major questions about how long councilmembers would serve if they were elected in 2022 and how they would get back to odd-year elections.

For right now, the council is moving forward as if the date of the election is up to them.

“We move forward on the basis this decision is ours to make but recognize it could be taken out of our hands,” Driggs said.

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