A three-judge panel has decided a new option for choosing members of the North Carolina Supreme Court is unconstitutional. Lawyers were alerted Thursday to the judges’ ruling striking down the 2015 law creating “retention elections.” The Superior Court judges — Anna Mills Wagoner, Lisa Bell and Benjamin Alford — heard oral arguments earlier this week in a lawsuit challenging the concept. The law gives most sitting justices the option to be re-elected to additional eight-year terms without head-to-head matchups with challengers. Instead, the justice can choose to be elected in an up-or-down vote. It’s supposed to be used by Associate Justice Bob Edmunds for the first time this November.
Wake County court administrator Lisa Tucker wrote to the lawyers in the case, quoting the panel’s decision, which bars state election officials from conducting a retention vote. The email was provided by the state Attorney General’s Office, whose lawyers are defending the law.
The ruling, which won’t be official until an order is written and signed, could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
A candidate filing period for Edmunds’ seat may have to be opened later this year should the retention election ultimately be found unlawful.