Primary season is upon us — Here’s what you need to know 

Primary season is upon us — Here’s what you need to know 

It’s already February, and you know what that means, right?! We’re not talking about Valentine’s Day, we’re talking about how early voting for this year’s March 5 primary election is now just two weeks away – and absentee voting by mail has been underway since Jan. 19.

The in-person early voting period runs from Feb. 15 to March 2 and there are primaries for both the Democratic and Republican parties. Unaffiliated voters may choose the ballot of any one party that has a primary (Democratic, Libertarian or Republican) or a nonpartisan ballot, if available in their jurisdiction, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE).

For those who didn’t vote in November’s municipal elections, the primary will be different than the last time you voted because you will now be required to have an acceptable form of identification to vote. If you don’t have one, you will need to fill out an ID Exception Form or vote with a provisional ballot and later return with your ID.

“We encourage all eligible primary voters to plan how, when, and where you will cast your ballot, and to make sure you have an acceptable form of photo ID for voting,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of NCSBE. “If you need photo identification, you can get a photo ID for free from your county board of elections office or your local DMV.”

If you aren’t registered to vote, the deadline to do so is 5 p.m. on Feb. 9. Don’t despair, though – you can still register after the deadline but there’s a catch. If you don’t register by the deadline, you can head to a one-stop early voting location and take advantage of same-day registration through March 2. If that sounds confusing, that’s the point – and you can thank the NCGOP for that. 

Voters will be choosing their top candidates for nearly two dozen positions, including:

  • U.S. President
  • U.S. House of Representatives
  • Governor 
  • Lieutenant Governor
  • Secretary of State
  • State Auditor
  • State Treasurer
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Attorney General
  • State Senator
  • State Representative
  • N.C. Supreme Court Justice
  • N.C. Court of Appeals Judge
  • Superior Court Judge
  • District Court Judge
  • District Attorney

The voting laws and maps in North Carolina have been the subject of much debate – because they’re racist and un-democratic – and also the subject of numerous lawsuits.

Since October 2023, there have been at least eight lawsuits filed in opposition to the NCGOP’s election laws and gerrymandered maps, including one filed on Wednesday by 11 plaintiffs including former president of the UNC System Tom Ross and former N.C. Sen. Allen Wellons (D-Johnston). One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs is former Republican NC Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr.

There is an important distinction between this latest lawsuit and the other seven that were filed – this lawsuit was filed in Wake County Superior Court. According to Orr, the legal challenge is one of “first impression” and is unlike the previous partisan gerrymandering cases.

“Those cases dealt with the maps in their totality, in the aggregate, and were based really on a proportionality argument as to whether one party or the other should get a specific number of seats,” said Orr. “Our case is not about the political parties. It’s about individual voters.”

The lawsuit alleges Republican lawmakers filled three new Congressional districts and two state legislative districts with right-leaning voters to ensure favorable political outcomes this year.

“Stuffing districts with favorable voters to your side violates that right,” Orr said.

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Patrick Zarcone

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