- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina’s primary on Tuesday will be notable for the fact that it won’t decide the Republican and Democratic nominees in the state’s congressional races because of new districts and a new schedule recently put in place.

When congressional voting districts were redrawn last month, the primary date for U.S. House of Representatives candidates was also pushed back to June 7. The map was reconfigured after a federal court ruled that two districts were unlawfully race-based and ordered new boundaries.

Voters will cast ballots Tuesday in the state’s presidential primary and other races.

Ballots will still list the names of congressional candidates, but votes cast in those races won’t count. State elections officials have encouraged voters to fill out the whole ballot rather than worry about leaving certain races blank, saying: “Vote the whole ballot and let us worry about what will count.”

The change to the schedule was made because there wasn’t enough time to hold a new congressional candidate filing period, print new ballots based on new boundaries and mail absentee ballots to people in time to keep the congressional primary on track.



Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College, said the changes will be confusing for voters, who may in some instances simply choose not to vote in down-ballot races.

“I don’t know how voters are going to react. I think this is continued uncertainty,” he said.

As far as the new June date, Bitzer said he expects a relatively low turnout because it falls during a prime summer vacation month.

Another significant change is the elimination of primary runoffs for 2016 primary races.

Usually, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff if the first-place candidate fails to receive above 40 percent of the vote. Now the leading candidate will advance to the general election regardless of the percentage received.

The change was meant to avoid adding more election dates, which could have potentially increased voter confusion and the workload for election officials.

The filing period for congressional candidates starts on Wednesday, creating the potential for interesting matchups. Republican Rep. George Holding has said he would run in the new 2nd District, where GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers now serves. To the west, the new Republican-leaning 13th District could also have a crowded Republican primary field, political scientists say.

Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Rep. Alma Adams of Greensboro has said she’s likely to move to Charlotte to stay within the boundaries of the redrawn 12th District. Some Charlotte Democrats have also expressed interest in the new district.

“I think they’re all scrambling just as much as the voters are to try and understand where they’re running and when their election actually is,” Bitzer said.

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