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Charlotte Observer - Two congressmen ask McCrory to reconsider election dates

January 10, 2014
In The News

By Jim Morrill

Two of North Carolina’s Democratic congressmen have asked Gov. Pat McCrory to reconsider a decision to schedule a November special election to fill the congressional seat of Charlotte Democrat Mel Watt.

Watt resigned this week when he became director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

McCrory announced a special election that would start with a May 6 primary and a Nov. 4 general election.

That would leave the seat vacant for more than 300 days. In a letter to McCrory, U.S. Reps. David Price of Chapel Hill and G.K. Butterfield of Wilson called that “unprecedented in recent congressional history.”

“Such a delay is unacceptable,” they wrote. “The rationale that you have offered, that it is both too costly and logistically impossible to hold the special election before November, is not convincing.”

Of the seven other vacancies in the current Congress, six were filled in an average of 126 days. The seventh, in Florida, has special primaries set for Tuesday and a general election on March 11 – 145 days after the death of GOP Rep. Bill Young.

But McCrory spokesman Ryan Tronovitch said holding the special election at the same time as the regularly scheduled elections would be “the simplest, cleanest, and least confusing option for voters, candidates, poll workers, and county boards of elections.”

Moreover, he said, it would save election boards in the district’s six counties around $1 million from the cost of holding stand-alone elections.

Stand-alone elections, Tronovitch said, would mean voters could potentially go to the polls six times: for two primaries, two runoffs and two general elections, adding to voter confusion.

In an interview, Price said that leaves the district’s 700,000 residents without representation for too long.

“To imply that the 300-plus days is no problem, it is a problem,” Price said. “I really think it’s a bad decision, and there’s plenty of time to reconsider it, and I hope he’ll do that.”