The entire 2021 Greensboro City Council will now be held in March 2022, following action by the state legislature, inaction by Gov. Roy Cooper and action by the City Council.
The City Council election was delayed by Senate Bill 722, which was passed by the legislature and sent to Gov. Roy Cooper on June 16. On Friday, June 25, the governor’s office announced that Cooper would not sign or veto the bill, allowing the bill to become law without his signature on June 26.
However, that did not settle the issue for the Greensboro City Council elections, which, according to the new law, could be split. The new election law delays the district city council races to March but allows Greensboro to hold elections that don’t involve district races on Nov. 2, as previously scheduled.
That would allow Greensboro to hold the election for mayor and the three at-large councilmembers on Nov. 2 and the election for the five district council seats in March.
However, on June 15, Councilmember Yvonne Johnson made a motion to hold one City Council election and that motion passed by an 8-1 vote.
Councilmember Justin Outling cast the lone no vote on the motion to hold one election. Outling, who is running for mayor, said that there was no reason to make the decision without public input. Outling said, “I desire for there to be an opportunity for public input on this topic, especially as the city attorney pointed out we don’t even have a law yet.”
Councilmember Tammi Thurm spoke twice about the need for public input before making a decision on when to hold the election, but then voted in favor of holding one election, which effectively delays all the elections until March.
Several councilmembers said that it would lead to even more confusion and that voter turnout in City Council elections – already embarrassingly low – would be even lower for an election held only for the mayor and at-large city councilmembers in November, with a second election for district city councilmembers in March.
Greensboro, according to the data currently available, would not be required to redistrict once the US Census figures are released. The preliminary data indicates that the current districts will not have a deviation of over the 10 percent threshold that mandates redistricting.
Greensboro was not required to redistrict for the 2011 election for the same reason. However, in 2011, the City Council decided to redistrict in order to get the districts more in line with each other. Despite the fact that in 2011 the City Council was only tweaking the districts to bring more parity, the redistricting was highly controversial.
It is expected that the City Council will make a similar decision to redistrict when the Census figures are finally released in September, and it is also expected to be highly controversial.
Since filing for the March 8, 2022 primary will be in December, the City Council will only have a couple of months to argue about the new districts, so the argument can’t last long, but is expected to be hot.