N.C. House overrides Coopers veto of judicial elections bill

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
The floor of theHouse of Representatives in the N.C. General Assembly. (file photo)

Raleigh, NC — On Wednesday the North Carolina House of Representatives voted to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill to put political party indicators back on the ballots in judicial elections. The final vote was 74 to 44 along party lines with Republicans voting for it and Democrats against it. The vote count was beyond that minimum needed to override the veto. “Democrats removed party labels from the ballot because they were losing those elections,” said NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes. “Voters should examine the records and positions of judicial candidates closely, but it’s clear that voters feel more empowered to cast ballots in judicial elections when they know how the candidates are registered. Removing this critical information from the ballot caused a dramatic drop in the percentage of votes cast, and denied information to voters that they clearly desired. For the health of our democracy, we need to right this wrong.” Cooper vetoed House Bill 100, “An Act to Restore Partisan Judicial Elections for North Carolina Superior and District Courts and to Change the Time for Submission of Petitions for Unaffiliated Candidates” last Thursday after it was ratified by the legislature earlier in March.”North Carolina wants its judges to be fair and impartial, and partisan politics has no place on the judges’ bench,” Cooper said in a letter that accompanied the veto notice. “We need less politics in the courtroom, not more.”The Senate is likely to take up the override measure by the end of the week.Following Cooper’s veto, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) immediately responded in a statement: “If the governor believes ‘partisan politics has no place on the judges’ bench,’ he should stop suing the legislature when he loses political battles.”When Democrats were the majority party in the legislature, they passed laws removing party affiliation information from ballots incrementally beginning in 1996, calling it a move to make them “nonpartisan.” Supporters of the new bill, which would have put “R” or “D” next to judge candidates’ names on the ballot, say it is a critical piece of information voters need to make informed decisions in the voting booth when they do not know the detailed record of each judicial candidate.Supporters also say it increases the number of people who actually vote in judicial elections, rather than leaving the space blank if they aren’t familiar with the candidates.