There would be no runoff in Charlotte’s mayoral race under a bill approved Thursday by a North Carolina House panel – despite earlier concerns about how it might affect the election.
House Bill 843 not only would eliminate runoffs but shorten the time in July candidates are allowed to file. It also would move the date of the Matthews primary from October to September.
The bill, which the full House could vote on next week, would affect this year’s Democratic primary. At least two candidates – Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles and state Sen. Joel Ford – are challenging incumbent Mayor Jennifer Roberts. A runoff is triggered if no candidate wins 40 percent of the primary vote.
The bill was scheduled for a House vote last month but pulled after an Observer story that suggested the change could help Roberts in a crowded primary by fragmenting her opposition. A runoff could consolidate the opposition around a single candidate.
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In 2015, Roberts won 36 percent in the primary and defeated then-incumbent Dan Clodfelter in a runoff. Under the bill, she would have won outright in the first primary.
Roberts is not particularly popular with the Republicans who control the General Assembly. Asked if pulling the bill had anything to do with the Charlotte race, sponsor David Lewis smiled and said news stories sometimes affect public policy.
But the bill that returned Thursday was essentially unchanged from the original version.
Lewis has said the bill is motivated not by politics but by the calendar. The problem: Election boards have 10 days to canvass, or certify, the results of the primary, which this year is Sept. 12. Since a court extended early voting back to 17 days last year, the canvass wouldn’t be finished until two days after the start of early voting.
Election officials have said that wouldn’t give counties time to certify the results of the first primary before they’d have to print ballots for a runoff.
Lawmakers Thursday added a $75,000 budget request to the bill for the state board of elections. That was a technicality that allows a bill to still be considered after last month’s “crossover” deadline.