In normal times, a Greensboro City Council election would be held this year.
The Guilford County commissioners and the Guilford County Board of Education members serve staggered terms; the city councilmembers do not.
Every four years there is an election for the mayor and all eight members of the City Council, and 2021 is that year.
But with times far from normal, Greensboro City Attorney Chuck Watts gave the City Council a report on the 2021 election at the Tuesday, April 6 work session.
The issue is that Greensboro is required to draw new City Council districts, if the 2020 Census figures show that there is more than a 10 percent population deviation between the largest district and the smallest district.
The problem with that is, because of COVID-19, the US Census Bureau has said that the Census figures that are normally released in March won’t be released until Sept. 30 and the City Council primary is scheduled for Oct. 4.
Watts said that under the current laws there isn’t much the city can do except go ahead with the election as scheduled.
Watts said that the city was required to redistrict if the districts were out of balance as soon as possible after the Census figures are reported, but also that redistricting must be completed at least three business days before filing for the election opens.
The first day for filing for the November City Council election is July 26, so the last day the City Council could take action to redistrict is July 21. Since the Census data won’t be released until Sept. 30, Watts said, “Council is not in a position that it could take action for this election under the statute.”
Watts said that if the election is held in the current districts and the Census data showed that the districts were unbalanced that someone could sue, but that in his opinion it would not be successful.
He said, “Is there a reasonable chance of there being an injunction. My suggestion is that the answer is pretty much no.”
Watts said that the big unknown is whether or not the North Carolina General Assembly will take action because there are other municipalities in a similar situation.
Watts said, “The legislature may take some action to alleviate the problem.”
Mayor Nancy Vaughan said that she had spoken with state Rep. Jon Hardister, who said he that the legislature was likely to postpone the 2021 municipal elections until either March or May of 2022, depending on when the statewide primary for the 2022 general election is held.
If the general election were held the first week of March that would mean the primary for City Council elections would be the first week in February. If the general election is held in May the primary would be in April.
Watts said if the Census data is not available until Sept. 30, redistricting and making the deadlines for a February primary “would be a challenge.”
So the answer to the question about the 2021 City Council election is that nobody knows what will happen. It could be held in November in the current districts or it could be held in March or May of 2022 in redrawn districts.