This year, there’s a new wrinkle in North Carolina law for candidates who wish to run for sheriff in counties across the state.
In addition to the other paperwork that all candidates must fill out, candidates for sheriff in North Carolina now have to complete forms verifying that they have “no prior felony convictions or felony expungements.”
The candidates’ filing period for the 2022 Primary Election is on hold for now due to legal challenges regarding recent redistrictings; however, sheriff’s candidates who’ve filed so far – and those who plan to file when the period reopens – must meet this requirement.
Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt said it’s one more item that his office has to check off when candidates file. However, he added, his elections office only checks that the paperwork is in order – the office doesn’t have to do any actual criminal background checks of candidates.
After the forms are completed by the candidates – and a background check is conducted – eligible candidates for sheriff are given a “disclosure statement” that’s a requirement for filing in that race. The candidate turns that statement over to their county’s board of elections office when they file to run.
According to state election officials, “The filing process is not complete until a person submits the disclosure statement.”
Under the new state law, no one can serve as a sheriff in the state if they’ve been convicted of a felony – even if that conviction was expunged from their record.
A pardon, however, will allow a candidate to run. According to the State Board of Elections, “A person who receives an unconditional pardon of innocence for their felony may file for the office of sheriff or be appointed to that office.”
Collicutt said that, in Guilford County, so far, obtaining the disclosure form hadn’t seemed to be an issue for those who were filing to run.
One candidate for sheriff in Guilford County who asked not to be named said it was his understanding that one potential candidate for that office hadn’t filed to run this year because of the new law.
Every candidate for sheriff has to fill out separate forms from the NC Administrative Office of the Courts and the NC Sheriffs’ Education and Training Standards Commission.
For months, state and local election officials have been encouraging candidates for sheriff across the state to complete the forms and turn them in as soon as possible since background checks can take two or three weeks.
The disclosure statement is valid for filing for 90 days after being issued.
The new law also ended a prior requirement that a candidate for sheriff in North Carolina be a resident of the county for at least one year before the general election.