RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina legislators are considering whether to move all primary elections next year to March, not just the presidential primaries, key House and Senate leaders said Wednesday.
Primaries for state races— including those for governor, Congress and the legislature — are currently set for next May 3. A shift to one date, if agreed to, could save millions of dollars for taxpayers by eliminating the need for two statewide primaries but also force potential candidates for dozens of jobs to accelerate their decision-making and fundraising.
A bill brokered by North Carolina Republican leaders this summer and already approved by the Senate set March 15 as the presidential primary date. But the House will vote not to accept the Senate bill late Wednesday, according to Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, a Republican National Committee member, setting up the need for House and Senate negotiations.
Lewis and Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, told The Associated Press lawmakers are discussing several other election changes, many of them technical and some sought by the State Board of Elections. But they also said separately that holding only one primary in March also was being examined.
“Both chambers are considering options that streamline the primary process,” Lewis wrote in an email. Lewis and Rucho emphasized that both chambers still support the March 15 presidential primary It’s a “widely supported, bipartisan measure that will reflect the important role North Carolina plays in electing” the president, Lewis added.
Elections are usually paid for by the counties. Rucho said there are a lot of unknowns about holding two primaries that need to be addressed. The last time North Carolina held a separate presidential primary was in 1988.
“It’s up for discussion. Nobody has a real answer for this,” Rucho said in an interview. “We’ve never done this before.”
Republican leaders decided in 2013 to separate and move up the presidential primary so voters in the nation’s ninth most populous state could have more influence on choosing nominees.
The 2013 law would have set the North Carolina presidential primary in February, but the Republican National Committee threatened to take away most of the state’s 2016 convention delegates if the primary was held that early. National Democrats also have similar rules discouraging February primaries.
Should all primary elections be held March 15, the candidate filing period certainly would have to begin earlier. Currently, the filing period begins Feb. 8.
Other races on the 2016 ballot include lieutenant governor and other members of the Council of State, as well scores of judgeships and county commission seats.