North Carolina Democrats have asked the federal courts to block a law that does away with primaries next year in partisan judicial races. The state Democratic Party and several county parties, including those in Wake, Durham and Orange counties, sued on Tuesday claiming that the law adopted in October by the Republican-led General Assembly is unconstitutional because it prohibits the political party from the “special protection” afforded to it in the First and Fourteenth amendments to select candidates who best represent the party’s philosophies and policies. The Democrats involved with the lawsuit have asked the court to take action before February, when candidate filing for the 2018 elections opens in North Carolina.
State Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said Republicans are “rigging the system.” Senate leader Phil Berger fired back that the lawsuit is part of Democrats’ “continued abuse of the court system.”
The law canceling judicial primaries came in the same year that lawmakers made all judicial races partisan — from the state Supreme Court to the district courts, where traffic cases, custody issues and misdemeanors are heard.
And the General Assembly continues to focus on the courts — a government branch that was designed to be independent from the legislative and executive offices whose laws and policies they can strike down if they run afoul of the state or federal constitutions.