Election filing is set to resume this week after a series of legal proceedings regarding new electoral maps following North Carolina’s 2020 Census.
Candidate filing for the 2022 Midterm Elections will begin Thursday, Feb. 24, and will run through March 4, according to Pandora Paschal, the director of elections for Chatham County’s Board of Elections.
The filing period for the primary elections was originally scheduled for December, but stopped on Dec. 8 shortly after starting. At that time, the North Carolina Supreme Court halted filing for all races and delayed the primary election until May 17 due to a gerrymandering lawsuit regarding the redistricted maps approved in November.
What followed the suit involved several legal complaints, ultimately resulting in the case reaching the state’s Supreme Court. They ruled the maps to be unconstitutional, and the General Assembly went back to redraw the maps.
Until the N.C. Superior Court approves the legislature’s new maps, Chatham County’s state and federal electoral districts are still not official.
“We don’t know what congressional district we are in yet,” Paschal said. “We were under the old map until we got a new map, but then they struck those maps out — so it’s a whole confusing situation.”
The primary elections are scheduled for May 17, with in-person early voting scheduled to start on April 28. Under that primary date, the deadline to finalize the contested maps is Feb. 23. By the time of publication Tuesday, the courts had not yet approved the redrawn maps.
The May primary election will also accept absentee ballots, according to Paschal. She said the state’s Board of Elections has already started taking requests for absentee ballots, which will begin to be mailed out to voters on March 28. Voters have until May 10 to request an absentee ballot.
“Civilian voters must return the return envelope with the voted ballot by 5 p.m. on May 17,” Paschal said. “The absentee ballots received after 5 (p.m.) on Election Day will be counted only if they are postmarked on or before Election Day and received by mail no later than 5 p.m. on the Friday after the Election.”
Absentee voting has changed slightly from last year, Paschal said. Voters must now present two witness signatures for each absentee ballot instead of one, which had been allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The extended nine-day period after Election Day for receiving absentee ballots — put in place due to COVID-19 restrictions — has also been eliminated.
Other changes have also been implemented at the local level for this year’s primary elections. Polling places have changed in several precincts; Paschal said voters should look out for those changes in their mailbox.
“For the changes we made — by law — we have to mail out a mailer to the voters so the voters will be notified 30 days before the election,” Paschal said. “Voters can also check to see their polling places, and they can do that by going to the voter lookup on the State Board of Election website or they can call our office.”
There will also be unique elections in two of the county’s municipalities — Siler City and Cary.
Both of these towns had to delay their municipal elections to redistrict their local electoral maps for 2020 census population changes. They will host their general municipal elections at the same time as the primary elections on May 17.
Paschal said voters in these towns will receive a special ballot containing the races for the various local seats up for election this year as well as the primary ballots for the state and federal offices.
“Siler City residents will be able to vote for the mayor and their at-large person, but if they are in a Siler City district, that district will be on their ballot,” Paschal said. “We don’t know right now how many ballot styles we’ll have, but we do know there will be different styles for Siler City and also for the Cary voters.”
Another issue Paschal addressed was the topic of voter fraud and the potential for fraud during the 2022 primaries and midterm elections.
After the many claims of voter fraud and misinformation surrounding the 2020 presidential election, Paschal said she wants Chatham County voters to know the system in place at the local Board of Elections is fraud-free.
“I can say with confidence here at the Chatham County Board of Elections Office there is no type of fraud or any kind of inconsistencies that we know of that goes on,” Paschal said. “We’re very transparent, and I also would encourage anyone who maybe doesn’t feel secure about it, they are welcome to give us a call, come in the office and we’ll be glad to go over our processes with them.”
Paschal said once absentee ballots start to arrive at the county’s board of elections office, they will hold meetings to count those votes, which are open to the public to view.
Due to the pandemic, the Board of Elections has held its meetings via livestream for the public. Paschal is hoping that for this year’s cycle they will be able to have members of the public be able to attend in-person.
“We try to be very transparent here,” Paschal said. “Any questions that they have, we’ll be glad to answer them. If we can’t answer them, then we will find somebody who can to make them feel better about the process.”
Contact the Board of Elections office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 919-545-8500. The elections office is located at 984 Thompson St., Suite D, in Pittsboro and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at email@example.com.
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