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  • FEC Record: Advisory opinions

AO 2016-03: New election entitles candidates to separate contribution limit

May 3, 2016

In response to a court order, North Carolina scheduled a June 7, 2016, primary election for the U.S. House of Representatives, separate from the state''s March 15, 2016, primary. Because the court order and subsequent legislation created a new electoral situation, candidates participating in both elections are entitled to separate contribution limits for each.

George Holding currently represents the 13th Congressional District of North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives. He ran unopposed in a primary election slated for March 15, 2016. However, on February 5, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina found two Congressional districts had been impermissibly gerrymandered. The court ordered the North Carolina General Assembly to redraw the district lines. The General Assembly did so on February 19, and scheduled a new primary for June 7.

On March 15, Holding amended his Statements of Organization and Candidacy to seek North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District seat, rather than the 13th. He will face the 2nd District incumbent in that race. His principal campaign committee, George Holding for Congress, Inc., asked the Commission if it could raise funds under a separate contribution limit for the June 7 election.

Under the Federal Election Campaign Act (“the Act”), candidates and their authorized committees are allowed separate contribution limits with respect to any election for federal office. 52 U.S.C. § 30116(a)(1)(A) and (2)(A). An “election” includes any general, special, primary, or runoff election where an individual, “whether opposed or unopposed, seek[s] nomination for election, or election, to Federal office.” 11 CFR 100.2(a).

The Commission has previously determined that a separate contribution limit is allowed when a court decision places candidates in a “new electoral situation” thereby creating a separate election. In Advisory Opinion 1996-36 (Congressman Martin Frost, et al.), the Commission found that five members of Congress from Texas were entitled to a separate contribution limit for a special election after a federal court redrew the boundaries of 13 congressional districts and ordered a new special election, thereby placing the candidates in a new electoral situation. In Advisory Opinion 2006-26 (Texans for Henry Bonilla), the Commission approved a separate contribution limit for a new special election after a court order nullified a prior election.

The circumstances presented in the current advisory opinion differ materially from those in Advisory Opinion 1982-22 (Steve Bartlett for Congress Committee), where the Commission found that a pre-election, court-ordered redistricting did not entitle a candidate to a new contribution limit because the court order was made several months in advance and did not change the election date, electoral procedures or candidate eligibility requirements.

In this case, at the time of the court order, voting in North Carolina''s March 15 primary had already begun — absentee ballots had been mailed to voters, and the names of congressional candidates had already been printed on the ballot. Additionally, the newly-enacted state law treated the March 15 and June 7 elections differently by requiring candidates qualified for the March 15 ballot to file a new notice of candidacy in connection with the June 7 election. The law also altered the required percentage of votes that a candidate must receive to win the primary and eliminated the possibility of a second primary.

The Commission found the specifics of North Carolina''s electoral situation to be highly unusual in the sense that the court order and new state laws went into effect only weeks before the March 15 election.

For these reasons, the Commission found that the June 7 primary constitutes a separate election from the March 15 primary, and, therefore, candidates in the June 7 primary are entitled to a separate contribution limit.

Date issued: 04/29/2016; 5 pages


  • Author 
    • Isaac Baker
    • Communications Specialist