Coronavirus pushes back second primary

  • The second primary for U.S. House of Representatives District 11 has been moved back to June 23.
    The second primary for U.S. House of Representatives District 11 has been moved back to June 23.

The second primary election for District 11 in the US House of Representatives has been pushed back six weeks due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

The NC State Board of Elections made the decision on Friday to push the second primary back from Tuesday, May 12 to Tuesday, June 23.

“The health and safety of North Carolina voters, election staff and poll workers is our top priority during this time,” NCSBOE Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell said in a written statement. “State and county elections officials are working hard on plans to ensure voters can cast ballots safely in all future elections, even if the threat from COVID-19 persists.”

Brinson Bell’s decision came after consultation with state emergency officials, Republican Party leaders and elections officials in the counties that make up District 11 (including Macon and Jackson).

The second primary was necessitated by the close finish between Republican candidates Madison Cawthorn and Lynda Bennett in the original March 3 primary. Bennett garnered 20,606 votes (22.72 percent) across District 11 in the first primary while Cawthorn collected 18,841 votes (20.38 percent).

The District 11 race will be the only race on the June 23 ballot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean any less work for local board of elections offices.

“We still have to get our precincts prepared and make sure we have everything in order,” Macon County Board of Elections Deputy Director Gary Tallent said. “Whether there is one race on the ballot or 10 races, the process is the same. We have to get the voting sites ready and keep our group of poll workers up to speed.”

The order does allow the 17 counties in District 11 to move or consolidate voting precincts, if necessary because of the pandemic, for the second primary only and with the approval of the NC State Board executive director. That measure was added to make sure that polling places are available and will be adequately staffed for in-person voting. No decision has been made regarding possible precinct consolidation in Macon County.

US House District 11 has been occupied by Rep. Mark Meadows for the past eight years following his election in 2012. Meadows announced in 2019 that he would not seek a fifth term in the House and was subsequently named president Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff on March 6.

A total of 12 candidates sought the Republican nomination for Meadows’s seat in the first primary. Whoever wins the second primary between Cawthorn and Bennett will take on Democratic Party challenger Moe Davis in November’s general election.