RALEIGH – On Tuesday, the N.C. House gave final approval to putting party affiliation back on the ballot for judiciary candidates in Court of Appeals races. The Senate passed House Bill 8 measure last week. It is part of an effort in boost voter participation in judicial elections and combat what some consider activism in court decisions. Opponents said that the party designations put political pressure on judges.
“More North Carolinians are moving toward registering as independent voters. This tells me that most North Carolinians aren’t buying what your party is selling and they aren’t always buying what my party is selling,” said Rep. Greer Martin (D-Wake). “Lets keep politics out of this and keep elections as nonpartisan as possible.”
Supporters said that many court decisions can already be considered partisan, and party designation gives voters more information on which to base their vote. Under the measure, candidates for the N.C. Court of Appeals would give their party affiliation when they file to run, but they would not compete in party primaries. Instead, all voters would be able to choose candidates from all parties in a primary, where the top two vote-getters would face off in the general election — even if the they were from the same party.
“I cant tell you how many people said to me ‘I have no idea who to vote for in judges,'” said Rep. Dana Bumgardner (R-Gaston). “By giving them the party label they have some information and it’s better than none.”
According to bill sponsor Rep. Bert Jones (R-Rockingham), five hundred thousand people voted in the most recent North Carolina Senate race without casting any judicial votes. The argument garnered a 70-44 in favor of passing the measure.
“The truth of the matter is that the voter can decide whether they want to use party affiliation on the ballot to help them decide how to vote,” said Jones. “We used to do it years ago, other states still do, but our state changed that because some people didn’t like the way people were voting.”
The bill now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature.