By Dan Diorio and Wendy Underhill
Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia will not be alone next year when they hold their legislative elections—North Carolina will join them.
The first four states always hold their legislative elections in odd-numbered years. North Carolina does not, so the 2017 elections will be exceptions to the rule.
In fact they will be special—special elections, ordered by a three-judge federal court earlier this week.
The case is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. If it allows the lower court’s ruling to stand, one result will be that some legislators may be on the ballot three years in a row when counting this year’s election and looking ahead to the regularly scheduled election in 2018.
Why the special elections? In August, the existing legislative maps were ruled unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment, and new lines were ordered to be drawn. This week’s ruling gave the legislature until March 15 to do so. A primary date will be selected in August or early September, and the special elections will be in early November for more than two dozen affected districts.
The North Carolina races are likely to be the most hotly contested elections in the country next year, in large part because the state is now under divided government. After the 2016 election, Republicans maintained their veto-proof majority in the legislature, and it looks likely that Democrat Roy Cooper is going to be the governor. We say “looks likely” because the race hasn’t been called yet, and a partial recount is just about to get underway.
The point: There’s never a dull moment in North Carolina politics.
Wendy Underhill and Dan Diorio are two-thirds of NCSL’s redistricting and elections team. Amanda Buchanan rounds it out.