Siler City Elections to be Held in March

by Casey Mann, Senior Correspondent

Siler City’s municipal elections have been postponed to March 2022 due to the delayed release of the 2020 Census data. Siler City’s districts—which are a mix of representational and at-large districts—are required by state law to conduct a redistricting process following the Census.

In a normal year, the data would have been released in the spring of the municipal election year, with municipalities having approximately two months to determine new districts. This work is mandated to be completed prior to municipal candidate filing periods which historically occur in the summer.

With the extensive delay of the 2020 Census data, the N.C. General Assembly voted in late June to delay municipal elections for offices elected by district until 2022, affecting more than 30 municipalities in the state, including Siler City. Other municipal elections in Chatham County, such as Pittsboro and Goldston, will not be affected.

“City, town, and village elections not affected by this law will go on as planned later this year,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the NC State Board of Elections. “The State Board and county boards are hard at work preparing for the upcoming candidate filing periods and elections.”

The new law also defines new filing periods for the affected municipalities, which will be held in December 2021 or January 2022, depending on when each municipality completes the redrawing of its districts. If a municipality provides revised districts by November 17, the filing period for the 2022 elections will begin at noon December 6, 2021, and end at noon December 17, 2021. If an affected municipality cannot adopt a new redistricting plan by November 17, the county board of elections can delay the filing period for that municipality to noon January 3, 2022, through noon January 7, 2022. Regardless of when Siler City’s filing period occurs, the General Election for municipal candidates will be held on March 8, 2022, the same day as the 2022 Primary Elections.

Siler City Redistricting

Earlier this year, the town of Siler City contracted with Tharrington Smith, LLC to assist with the redistricting process. Last month, Siler City town officials were informed that the release of Census data was now anticipated to occur in mid-August to September. Soon after, Deborah Stagner of Tharrington Smith, sent Town Manager Roy Lynch an anticipated timeline for the town’s redistricting process.

The Siler City Board of Commissioners will have an initial meeting to review the Census data, likely to be held at its regular board meeting on October 4. During that meeting, Stagner and her team will go over the data and provide an overview of the process. At this point, the Commissioner would be able to consider and adopt a set of redistricting criteria to guide the drawing of the new districts, according to Lynch.

The tentative timeline then has Stagner present and review potential redistricting plans and map during its November 1 board meeting. This meeting will provide an opportunity for commissioners to ask questions and provide feedback to the consultants. Then, either at the November 15 regular board meeting or perhaps a special meeting called by the board in November, a public hearing will be held to allow the public to provide its comments and feedback on the potential districts.

The hope is that the board will be able to adopt revised districts at its December 6 regular meeting and pass a redistricting resolution. As this adoption date is after the November 17 date laid out by the state law, the filing period for Siler City municipal candidates would be in January.

Seats up for election in Siler City

Regardless of what the new maps look like, the seats that are up for election will remain as they are. The election for a new Mayor of Siler City will be at the top of the municipal ballot. The town has been without a mayor since the death of its former Mayor John Grimes late last year. At that time, the Board decided not to appoint a replacement, but to wait for the municipal elections to allow voters to decide.

In addition to the Mayor, the Siler City Board of Commissioners consists of five commissioners voted on by district and two at-large commissioners. For the 2022 election, District 1 Commissioner Tony Siler, District 5 Commissioner Lewis Fadely, and At-Large Commissioner Cindy Bray are all up for re-election.

If and how district lines are drawn could affect some of those candidacies.

For example, if District 1 is redrawn and Mr. Siler is no longer considered “in the district,” he would be ineligible to run. At the same time, the remaining commissioners on the board, whose elections are not until 2023, may find themselves representing districts they no longer live in as well.

For now, residents of Siler City and those they elected to represent them will wait to see what the Census data says about population changes in town and how they will affect how they choose to represent them.