Bill To Make Judicial Races Partisan Gets Approval In NC House
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 These races were originally made non-partisan years ago when a public financing bill was passed, that bill was repealed in 2013.
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 The GOP-led legislature repealed the public financing program in 2013.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.