Voters casting ballots for judges next year will know the political parties of the candidates. Republicans who control the General Assembly say that gives voters helpful information. Democrats say it politicizes the courts. House Bill 100 makes Superior Court and District Court elections partisan, completing a change that the legislature began with appellate courts including the state Supreme Court. On Thursday, the state Senate with little discussion overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of HB 100 by a vote of 32-15, with two Republicans voting against the override: Sen. John Alexander of Raleigh and Sen. Danny Earl Britt of Robeson County. The House had voted 77-44 the day before to override the veto. The measure will restore party primaries for trial-court races. Political affiliations will be included on the general-election ballot.
The law will add a hurdle for unaffiliated judicial candidates like Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons, who said he shifted his voter registration from Democratic last year because partisan politics should have no place in the courtroom.
People who belong to political parties can simply pay a filing fee to get their names on a ballot in a partisan election. But if any of the state’s 2 million unaffiliated voters want to run for office, they have to get signatures endorsing their candidacy from 2 percent of the registered voters in their district.
In Cumberland County, Ammons would need more than 2,100 signatures. Ammons was disappointed by the change. He sees a benefit to having no “R” or “D” designations by judicial candidates’ names. “I think it lends more to people having to learn about us,” Ammons said. “I get to tell voters the things I’ve done with my life.”
Superior Court elections were switched from partisan to nonpartisan in 1996, and District Court elections were changed in 2001.