A wild card in the 2021 Greensboro City Council elections, which has been talked about behind the scenes for a while, is getting some press.
The wild card is redistricting. Once the 2020 Census figures are official, Greensboro may be required by law to redistrict.
If the 2020 Census figures show that there is a more than 10 percent variation in the five City Council districts then the city is required to redraw the district lines to bring them into compliance, so that each district councilmember represents roughly the same number of people.
In 2011, City Council redistricting became a divisive issue with a mostly false story about a secret map being played up by the mainstream media.
Redistricting won’t make any difference in the mayoral or at-large races, but it could play a critical part in the district races. In 2011, the districts were tweaked to bring them into line with the 2010 Census. But the City Council, which draws and approves the districts, could decide to completely redraw the districts.
Certainly for a district city councilmember potentially facing a strong opponent, there is a temptation to redistrict that opponent out of the district.
However, since all the district city councilmembers won the last election in the present districts, the normal tendency is to change the districts as little as possible.
Making the redistricting wild card even wilder is the fact that nobody knows whether redistricting will take place for the 2021 election or not.
The 2020 Census figures were originally scheduled to be released in March. However, because of delays caused by the pandemic, the current release date is by Sept. 30.
Filing for the City Council races is in July, the primary is Tuesday, Oct. 5 and the general election is Tuesday, Nov. 2.
Greensboro City Attorney Chuck Watts said, “The statute anticipates that Census information would be available prior to the filing period.”
He said that because of that assumption the statute in this case is “almost irrelevant.”
Watts said, “Everything has to happen before the filing period.”
Watts added, “I don’t think there is any way to redistrict before the election.”
But he added that he didn’t think anybody at this point knew how the whole issue was going to be handled.