Early voting began Thursday for the June 7 congressional and judicial primary. Here’s what voters should know to participate in what’s expected to be a low-turnout election:
Why are we voting in June? Back in February, a federal court ruled that the current North Carolina congressional districts were an unconstitutional racial gerrymander and threw them out. The General Assembly redrew the map. With the March 15 primary looming, legislators had to restart the election process and set a later date for primaries in the new congressional districts.
Judges also rejected the legislature’s plan to hold a “retention election” for the N.C. Supreme Court, which would have prompted an up-or-down vote on incumbent Justice Bob Edmunds’s bid for another term. Instead, Edmunds now faces three challengers, and the top two candidates in the primary will face off in November.
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Is the Supreme Court race nonpartisan? Technically, yes. But the election has high stakes for political parties. Republicans want to make sure Edmunds keeps the seat, or the partisan balance on the court could shift toward Democrats.
“We must keep our Republican majorities and begin by ensuring Justice Bob Edmunds wins his June 7th primary,” N.C. Republican Party chairman Robin Hayes wrote in an email to supporters Thursday.
Meanwhile, two registered Democrats are in the race, and the Wake County Democratic Party threw its support behind Superior Court Judge Mike Morgan on Thursday.
What are the races to watch? Many of the congressional races feature incumbents in districts that are drawn to favor them. But three are hotly contested.
In the Triangle area, Republican U.S. Reps. Renee Ellmers and George Holding are both running in the 2nd District under the new maps – a rare match-up between well-funded incumbents of the same party. Two-time U.S. Senate candidate Greg Brannon is also running.
In the Charlotte area, Democratic U.S. Rep. Alma Adams no longer has a home-turf advantage in the 12th District: She’s from Greensboro and has moved her residence to Charlotte to stay in her redrawn district. But she faces six Democratic challengers, including two state legislators and a former senator. And the one district with no incumbent – the 13th – features 17 Republicans and five Democrats.
What happens if no candidate gets 40 percent? Legislators decided not to hold runoff elections this year, and a candidate could win with a small percentage of votes.
What primary can unaffiliated voters participate in? Voters who are registered as unaffiliated can pick any party’s ballot – regardless of which party primary they voted in during the March 15 primary. A nonpartisan ballot is also an option and features only the judicial races.
Can you register to vote during the early voting period? Same-day registration is still available at early voting sites. But make sure to vote early if you’re not registered at your current address: The deadline to register by mail has already passed.
Early voting sites
Wake County: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through June 3 (except Memorial Day) and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 4 at the Board of Elections office, 337 S. Salisbury St.; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 1-3 and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 4 at the Northern Regional Center in Wake Forest (350 E. Holding Ave.) and the Falcon Park Hut in Fuquay-Varina (105 Falcon Drive).
Durham County: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays through June 3 (except Memorial Day) and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 4 at the Board of Elections office, 201 N. Roxboro St.
Orange County: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays through June 3 (except Memorial Day) and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 4 at the Board of Elections office, 208 S. Cameron St. in Hillsborough; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays through June 3 (except Memorial Day) and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 4 at the Chapel Hill Seymour Center, 2551 Homestead Road.
Chatham County: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays through June 3 (except Memorial Day), 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 28, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 4 at the Board of Elections office, 984 Thompson St. in Pittsboro.
Johnston County: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through June 3 (except Memorial Day) and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 4 at the Board of Elections office, 205 S. Second St. in Smithfield.