CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The widespread impact of terror attacks has North Carolina facing a delay in its primary contests next May.
Legislators need approval of their redistricting plan but a review required by the Justice Department could be held up because the Department of Justice has implemented new mail rules following anthrax attacks that struck Washington.
"It's kind of unlikely that we'll have a May primary," said state Sen. Brad Miller, D-Wake, the Senate redistricting committee chairman.
The delay is only partly the fault of mail services. Lawmakers locked in a budget crisis didn't get started on the new district maps until a few weeks ago.
The state Senate's plan has been approved, and the House may vote on the new map this week.
The associated materials that go with the new map, including census data, alternate plans, transcripts of hearing debates and floor action could total thousands of pages, which the Justice Dept. said must be faxed or e-mailed. No postal service or overnight couriers are allowed.
In 1991, there were 20 notebooks of material. Miller estimates the plan will be 6,000 pages long.
"That's a lot of faxing," he said.
The review, required to safeguard voting rights, could take longer than the 60 days needed to approve the map if there is a legal challenge or changes are required.
"The chances are good that the primary and filing date will be delayed simply because of the logistics," said House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg.
A delay would affect candidates across the political landscape from county commissioner to the U.S. Senate. But it could work to the benefit of candidates who need the time to build name recognition and raise money.
Miller is moving a bill through his committee to allow state elections officials to delay next year's monthlong filing period, now scheduled to open Jan.7.
If the filing lasts past March, though, it would be impossible to print ballots and make other arrangements required in time for a May vote.
The Justice Dept. could make the wait longer if it opposes the map. In 1992, it held up elections by five weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.