House Committee approves partisan judicial elections

H.B 100 would attach party labels to district and superior court races

RALEIGH — The House Elections Committee voted to approve legislation Tuesday to add party labels to judicial candidates for district and superior court elections. The proposal comes in an era of increasing litigiousness between government branches at the state and federal level, with both sides of the political aisle wary of any perceived judicial activism that sets back their respective policy platforms.”House Bill 100 … will provide the voters with critical information that can assist them with selecting the candidate that they the voter feels is best for the job,” said bill sponsor Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly) at the meeting.Democrats on the committee felt the switch to partisan judicial elections will only increase the likelihood of judicial activism, while Republicans argued that the voters should have as much information about judicial candidates as they do for all other statewide races.Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake) agreed that voters typically do not have enough information about judicial candidates when entering the voting both, but added, “I think where we disagree though is where the solution lies.”Bill sponsor Rep. Jason Saine (R-Lincoln) said “it is information the voters are hungry for.””What you see before you is pretty much what is happening in practice across the state anyway,” said Saine. “When we work the elections, when we’re out campaigning, at least in my community, we have both Republican and Democrat poll workers and candidates there with sample ballots.”Cautioning the Repulican bill sponsors, Minority Leader Darren Jackson (D-Wake) said the bill would ultimately hurt Republicans chances in districts like his where Republican judges hold seats in a Democratic county.”If this bill passes, none of those six will be there in four years,” said Jackson. “The ones that are up in 2018 will lose and the ones in 2020 will lose. Only because they have an ‘R’ beside their name in a county that Gov. [Roy] Cooper carried by 116,000 votes.”Despite the warning, the House committee approved the bill. Should the legislation reach Cooper’s desk, it could be a prime candidate for veto on an issue with a clear partisan divide.