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Elections officials: Vote the whole ballot in March

Uncertainty abounds for North Carolina’s 2016 congressional races, but election officials are advising voters to complete primary ballots as usual.

The March 15 primary ballots will feature congressional races under the state’s current congressional map, which places the 5th, 8th and 12th congressional districts in Rowan. A federal court ruling rendered the current map racially gerrymandered, and state legislators have drafted a new map that places the 8th and 13th congressional districts in Rowan. The new maps, however, must be approved by federal judges before taking effect. As a result, voters could decide North Carolina’s congressional representatives on March 15 or June 7.

“Every NC voter should be confident their voice will be heard in all primary contests,” State Board of Elections Director Kim Strach said in a news release last week. “In each election, voters should mark their preference in all contests, including candidates for U.S. House appearing on ballots in March. Vote the whole ballot and let us worry about what will count.”

Rowan County’s Board of Elections is telling voters the same message.

“We’ve just been told to direct voters to complete the entire ballot,” said Rowan elections specialist Laura Russell.

The local board of elections has already received thousands of March 15 primary ballots, which contains candidates who have filed under the current maps. Congressional races on those ballots could be used if judges don’t like newly approved maps.

Under the current maps, there’s no congressional primary in the 8th District.

The 12th Congressional District includes voters in Spencer, East Spencer and some parts of Salisbury. The 12th District makes a sharp turn to the west near China Grove and includes parts of the county between Mooresville Road and China Grove.

The 5th Congressional District includes parts of Salisbury north of U.S. 29 and west of Innes Street. It then runs along a set of railroad tracks, bisecting West Innes Street, Brenner Avenue and Jake Alexander Boulevard near Woodleaf Lanes. Rowan residents who live outside of Salisbury’s city limits and north of Mooresville Road will generally vote in the 5th Congressional District.

If the new maps hold up, votes in the March congressional primary race wouldn’t count or be released. A new filing period would open on March 16 and Rowan would be split between two congressional districts. Primary runoff elections in all U.S. House races across North Carolina would be eliminated. The runoff elections would be replaced with an election on June 7 that only features congressional candidates.

Nearly all voters in the 8th District under current maps would vote in the same district under the new map. The 8th District would add East Spencer, part of Spencer and a swath of west Rowan that’s south of Mooresville Road.

The 13th District appears to include all Salisbury voting precincts, part of Spencer and communities north of Mooresville Road.

Any changes to North Carolina elections in 2016 only apply to the state’s congressional races.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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