October 17, 2017/Press

NC GOP Rigs 2018 Supreme Court Race, Continues to Chip Away at Public’s Right to Elect Judges

Raleigh – The unconstitutionally-elected NC GOP continued its effort to undermine and erode the independence of our judicial branch today, overturning Gov. Cooper’s veto of SB 656.

This move had two motivators – one in the short term and one in the long term – but both with the larger goal of helping Republicans maintain and tighten their grip on power on the judicial branch.

  1. Short-Term: Clear the Way for Justice Barbara Jackson to Keep her Supreme Court Seat. The GOP lost their grip on the state Supreme Court last year and the courts have been a constitutional thorn in their unconstitutional sides every since. By eliminating primaries, they opened up next year’s Supreme Court election to include several candidates – and increased the chance that those candidates split the vote, leaving Judge Jackson at the top even if she doesn’t win a majority.

There’s precedent: in 2014, eight candidates ran in a shortened, special election with no runoffs or majority requirements. Judge Paul Newby ended up winning with just 23 percent of the vote. Republicans are looking to replicate that next year – even if it means they have to rig our elections to do it.

  1. Long-Term: Take Away People’s Right to Elect Judges and Instead Let the Unconstitutionally-Elected General Assembly Select Them. This legislation is the first step in a plan to rig the system so that the legislature picks judges for everyone in every district instead of letting the people vote for the judges they want. Sen. Berger and his staff have shown they want to move to legislative selection of judges, putting the judicial branch under the thumb of the legislative branch. Since holding judicial primaries while moving to eliminate judicial elections wouldn’t make sense, this is a necessary first step.

The GOP’s continued – now escalating – attacks on our independent judiciary are because they keep losing in court. Since gaining a majority, legislative Republicans have seen more than a dozen unconstitutional laws overturned by the courts. Instead of obeying the Constitution, Republicans want to bend the courts to their partisan will and pick their own judges.

“Removing judicial primaries is just the latest in a long list of attacks on North Carolina’s judiciary, and it is the GOP’s first step towards taking away our citizen’s right to elect judges altogether,” said NCDP Chair Wayne Goodwin.“Governor Cooper vetoed this bill to protect North Carolina’s elections and independent judiciary. It is shameful that the Republicans in Raleigh continue to be so comfortable putting partisan politics above protecting our democratic institutions.”