- Legislature’s override of HB100 means all judicial elections in NC will have party labels.
- Party labels provide important information for voters.
- Democrats voted for “nonpartisan” elections for their own partisan purposes.
On Thursday, the state Senate successfully voted to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of House Bill 100. Since the state House voted in favor of the override the day before, the bill becomes law and all judicial races on North Carolina’s ballots will now include party labels.
House Bill 100, “An Act to Restore Partisan Judicial Elections for North Carolina Superior and District Courts,” will restore partisan elections for those Courts. The Republican-led legislature has been restoring party labels to judicial races incrementally, just as the Democrats began systematically removing that key piece of information from ballots in 1996.
North Carolina’s new governor revealed his partisan stripes with this, his first veto. Cooper, by vetoing House Bill 100, signaled he wanted to continue to hide judicial candidates’ party affiliation from North Carolina voters, thus hiding a key piece of information voters could use to make their decision choosing the candidate. His veto, at the very least, would have made it more difficult for voters to find the candidate’s political affiliation. Which leads us to the question: Why doesn’t Roy Cooper want you to have key information to make an informed voting decision?
Far from a political novice, Roy Cooper knows that withholding the partisan affiliation of judicial candidates will not stop people from asking the question. Unfortunately, he also knows that oftentimes, when a voter doesn’t have enough information about candidates, the voter doesn’t vote in that race.
Civitas has written on this issue many times and this 2008 Civitas article looked at the numerical impact the change in the law on partisan labels on judicial elections had in suppressing voters. In 2000, with party labels on the ballot, the percentage of voters from the presidential race who dropped out before the state Supreme Court race was 2.8 percent. In 2004, after party labels were removed, the drop-off was 22.6 percent. Mission accomplished – votes suppressed.
The most recent example of judicial election drop-off in a high-profile “nonpartisan” judicial race came in the November General Election, where 4,769,640 total ballots were cast overall, but only 3,961,352 votes were cast in the North Carolina Supreme Court race. That’s an 808,288-vote difference in a race that decided which party held the majority on the highest court in the state.
In language the governor and the Left might better understand, they want to disenfranchise or suppress the vote of over 800,000 voters from voting in important elections.
In fact, the mainstream media often reported on the partisan ramifications of the so-called nonpartisan 2016 state supreme court race. Gary Robertson of AP, in an article about the governor’s veto, wrote:
“Despite the officially nonpartisan nature of the Supreme Court at the time, the party registration of each justice is closely watched.”
The partisan nature of this race was well documented in the mainstream media before and after the election. Would Roy Cooper censor media reports of party affiliation in judicial races?
So, what is Cooper’s real reason for pushing “nonpartisan” judicial races?
More than likely the answer is highly partisan in nature. It is well-known that as a state senator in the 1990s Cooper was a leader in the effort to make the judicial elections nonpartisan. As a state legislator in the 1980s and 1990s, Cooper watched Republicans consistently winning judicial races. Democrats, in power for 100 years at that time, recognized that voters of all political parties wanted to vote for judges who would uphold the principles of law and order, and voters were associating those principles with Republican judicial candidates. Democrats saw they needed to stem the tide.
Removing partisan labels from judicial races on North Carolina ballots did just that. In 1996 the first nonpartisan elections were established for Superior Court judges, followed by District Court judges in 2001 and Court of Appeals judges in 2002.
So, what would have happened if you went looking for the candidate’s political party in the 2016 Supreme Court race between Mike Morgan and Bob Edmunds? Using the State Board of Elections voter search, you would have found … 162 North Carolinians named “Michael Morgan,” two named Mike Morgan, and four named Robert Edmunds. That doesn’t help much, does it?
In defending his veto, the governor said: “North Carolina wants its judges to be fair and impartial, and partisan politics has no place on the judge’s bench. We need less politics in the courtroom, not more.”
The real shame, however, is that the governor of our state is playing politics with the voters. It’s a stretch to believe that if an informed voter wants to know the party affiliation of a Judge before voting, it would jeopardize the judge’s ability to be fair and impartial from the bench. Cooper’s attempt to continue to hide relevant information from North Carolina’s voters when they are exercising their right as citizens of our state is beneath the Office of the Governor of North Carolina.