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Let the Primaries Begin!

By Wendy Underhill | Feb. 28, 2022 | State Legislatures News | Print

Texans will vote on March 1. Theirs is the first installment of 2022’s primary season; the last will be in Rhode Island, with its primary set for Sept. 13.

It’s perfectly normal to have 50 state primaries over the course of six months in even-numbered years. A state or two may change its schedule from time to time, but the season is predictable. The exception was 2020. Due to the pandemic, at least a third of states postponed a primary election—and some of them postponed twice.

Due to the pandemic, at least a third of states postponed a primary election—and some of them postponed twice.

The ripple effect from the pandemic continues. Because of COVID-19, data collection for the 2020 census was delayed … which delayed the release of the nation’s head count … which delayed the start of redistricting … which many thought would delay primaries as well.

Turns out, so far only North Carolina has moved its primary because of redistricting delays (from March 8 to May 17). Ohio’s primary is scheduled for May 3, but its legislative and congressional maps aren’t final yet because of court challenges, which makes the timeline hard to meet—especially given the federal requirement that absentee ballots for overseas voters be mailed no later than 45 days before the election. Creative Buckeyes are looking at all the options.

Redistricting delays had a much bigger impact on candidate filing periods, with delays or extensions in at least six states:

  • Kentucky extended its deadline from Jan. 7 to Jan. 25.
  • Nebraska delayed the start of its candidate filing period from Dec. 1, 2021, to Jan. 5.
  • Ohio moved its congressional filing deadline from Feb. 2 to March 4.
  • The Maryland Court of Appeals extended its filing deadline from Feb. 22 to March 22.
  • The North Carolina Supreme Court first suspended candidate filing altogether, then later allowed it to resume, Feb. 24 to March 4.
  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which picked the congressional map for the Keystone State, modified the candidate filing period; it now opens Feb. 25 and closes March 25.

In Alabama, a change to the filing deadline was made and then reversed. A federal three-judge panel extended the filing deadline for congressional candidates in the Yellowhammer State at the same time it struck down the state’s congressional redistricting map. On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court permitted Alabama’s congressional plan to remain in effect for 2022, so candidate filing is now back on track.

There you have it: The state of state primaries and candidate filing periods as well. One final note: Texas is ready for its primary, but we may see further date changes in Ohio or other states as redistricting litigation intensifies and primaries draw nearer. Stay tuned.

Wendy Underhill directs NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.

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