Cooper vetoes judicial elections bill

"If the governor believes ‘partisan politics has no place on the judges’ bench,’ he should stop suing the legislature when he loses political battles," said Senate Leader Phil Berger.


RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill Thursday that would restore indicators of party affiliation next to judicial candidates back on the N.C. ballots. House Bill 100, “An Act to Restore Partisan Judicial Elections for North Carolina Superior and District Courts and to Change the Time for Submission of Petitions for Unaffiliated Candidates” was ratified by the legislature last week.

“North Carolina wants its judges to be fair and impartial, and partisan politics has no place on the judges’ bench,” Cooper said in a letter. “We need less politics in the courtroom, not more”

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) immediately responded in a statement: “If the governor believes ‘partisan politics has no place on the judges’ bench,’ he should stop suing the legislature when he loses political battles.”

When Democrats were the majority party in the legislature, they passed laws removing party affiliation information from ballots incrementally beginning in 1996, calling it a move to make them “nonpartisan.” Supporters of the new bill, which would have put “R” or “D” next to judge candidates’ names on the ballot, say it is a critical piece of information voters need to make informed decisions in the voting booth when they do not know the detailed record of each judicial candidate.

Supporters also say it increases the number of people who actually vote in judicial elections, rather than leaving the space blank if they aren’t familiar with the candidates.

“In the 2016 election, almost 800,000 fewer North Carolinians voted in the Supreme Court race than in the presidential race because they did not have enough information about the judicial candidates,” said Berger. “Surely, Gov. Cooper does not wish to suppress voter turnout in our judicial races.”

Thursday’s decision by the governor is the first veto of his tenure. It takes a three-fifth vote in both chambers of the legislature to override it. In the House, Republicans have a 75 to 45 majority and in the Senate it’s 35 to 15, so the Republican-led General Assembly does have a veto-proof majority in the legislature.

“I look forward to providing the Governor with his first veto override in the near future,” said Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly).


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