Could North Carolina's elections be delayed again next year?
That depends on the decision of a panel of judges in Raleigh hearing a pair of lawsuits against the state's new, Republican-drawn voting districts. This week the judges declined to fast-track a trial on the suits and scheduled another hearing for Jan. 12.
In an affidavit, state elections director Gary Bartlett laid out a case against delaying the elections. He cited three previous instances when legal challenges delayed elections, in 1998, 2002 and 2004.
In 1998, when Congressional primaries didn't happen until September, he wrote, "turnout was abysmal" at 8 percent.
"Any delays in establishing district boundaries creates an unfair and uneven playing field with a decisive advantage to wealthy candidates and incumbents," Bartlett wrote.
In addition, he said, the state and county elections boards will have less than three weeks from the close of filing on Feb. 29 to the start of absentee voting for the May 8 primary. Complicating the picture is the requirement to get absentee ballots to N.C.-based members of the armed forces deployed around the world.
Even compressing the times for filing and ballot preparation, he said, final lines would need to be in place by Feb. 24 for the May 8 primary to go of on schedule.
"A schedule this tight would put additional demands on elections officials," he wrote, "operating under such a tight timetable can undermine the successful conduct of elections."