Bill To Make Judicial Races Partisan Gets Approval In NC House

1 Comment(s) | Posted |

Yesterday the NC House gave tentative approval for a bill that would require elections for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals partisan. These races were originally made non-partisan years ago when a public financing bill was passed, that bill was repealed in 2013.

From the Daily Reflector article,

Elections for North Carolina appellate court judgeships have been officially nonpartisan since 2004, but Republicans are trying again to shift them back to partisan races. 

The House tentatively agreed Thursday to legislation to require state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals candidates run with their party affiliation on the ballots.

That means Democrats, Republicans and even Libertarians would hold primary elections if at least two candidates of the same party run for the same bench seat, as they do for other elected positions. Currently, nonpartisan primaries are held to narrow down a field of three or more candidates for a single seat so that only two candidates remain for the general election.

The races became nonpartisan when Democrats in charge of the General Assembly at the time created a voluntary public financing program for the appellate races. Republicans complained then that Democrats were trying to block recent GOP gains in the judiciary with the changes. The GOP-led legislature repealed the public financing program in 2013.

Chief bill sponsor Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham, said the nonpartisan label on these elections hid the fact that political parties have remained heavily involved in the appellate court races. They've endorsed slates of candidates and created campaign materials supporting them.

Having a political party next to each name also could boost turnout for these races by giving voters key information about the candidates, he said. During the 2014 election, 500,000 fewer votes were cast in the race for chief justice than in the U.S. Senate race. Races for Superior Court and District Court would remain nonpartisan.


  1. Tim Peck's avatar
    Tim Peck
    | Permalink
    Let's face it, these are elections. Party affiliation matters in elections. A person's political philosophy matters in electing legislators, local government officials, judges and school board members.<br /> <br /> In each case, the conduct of public affairs is guided by certain principles. In certain mundane affairs, like getting off a school bus, it make little difference. But in the really important things, a person's political philosophy can determine the moral landscape for a generation. It serves no honest purpose to have those guiding principles suspended in mystery in the crucial moment of exercising voting rights.<br /> <br /> In nonpartisan races, the candidates are often unknown to the voter, leaving them with the choice of marking the ballot based on solely on name recognition, for good or for ill, or of skipping that race altogether and not participating in the moment of truth when it matters most. The only information voters have to go on, in those cases, is affiliation. But that is the one piece of vital information that is missing.<br /> <br /> Indeed, activists go to great lengths to inform voters of this missing information in nonpartisan elections. They scramble to print "cheat sheets" and hand them out of street corners at election time so that voters will be informed. And all because this information is not included on the ballot handed them.<br /> <br /> We can lower the political temperature at no cost by simply informing voters at the point of sale.<br /> <br /> If we accept the writer's premise, that elections should be less partisan, then we would advocate for nonpartisan elections statewide. And yet we do not.<br /> <br /> The question asked by an unbiased writer should be, why would anyone running for elective office want to conceal their party affiliation from those voting for them? I suspect it is because voters, regardless of their own affiliation, tend to favor the morally serious conservative mindset in matters of education and jurisprudence. (Judicial and school board elections are the only nonpartisan elections left to us.)<br /> <br /> We've already seen what this concealment has given us in education. Let us now try the fully informed path.
    1. Leave a Comment