A bill effectively giving Raleigh council members an extra year in office by moving the city’s municipal election to 2022 will become law without Governor Roy Cooper’s signature, officials announced Friday.
Although Cooper declined to veto the bill, he appeared to criticize Raleigh’s leaders for deciding behind closed doors to move the election.
“While delays to census data caused by the pandemic necessitate changes to local elections, decisions about local elections like these should involve more open discussion and public input and therefore these changes will become law without my signature,” Cooper said in a press statement.
The council voted in closed session to ask the legislature to move the election to 2022 due to delays in the census. Data from the census is normally released in April but is not expected to be published until this fall due to the pandemic. That wouldn’t give city officials enough time to redraw district maps in time for an election.
“It is impossible to have new district lines drawn by that time, and we do know, based on the growth of Raleigh in the last 10 years, there’s no question there’s going to have to be some changes in the lines,” City Attorney Robin Tatum told the council earlier this month.
Tatum claims that the discussion didn’t need to happen in public because holding an election without updated census data could spur a lawsuit. No public vote was taken on the matter, drumming up controversy as to why the discussion needed to be kept secret.
Council member David Cox initially voted in closed session to move the election but changed his mind earlier this month, saying he viewed a two-year term as “a social contract with the public.” His retroactive decision did not affect the request to the legislature.
The change will move Raleigh’s municipal election from odd- to even-numbered years moving forward. This will likely have the added benefit of increasing voter turnout, which is typically lower in years without a presidential or congressional race.
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