Raleigh, N.C. — Candidates running to be judges on the North Carolina Court of Appeals will be required to list their party affiliations on the ballot under a bill headed to Gov. Pat McCrory.
House Bill 8 would have originally required all judicial races be fully partisan, complete with party primaries. But when the measure came through the Senate, a much more limited bill emerged.
Under the version passed Tuesday, Court of Appeals races would not, strictly speaking, be partisan.
Instead, Court of Appeals candidates would still run under a nonpartisan system through which a field of candidates for one office is narrowed to two by the primary. It is possible both candidates that make it to the general election could be from one party, Republican, Democrat or Libertarian, under such as system. The party affiliation merely gives voters more information about the candidates, proponents of the bill argue.
"The people of North Carolina deserve to know, whether they want to use that information or not," Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham, said on the House floor.
The measure passed 70-44, with opponents saying that it invited partisanship into an arena where it isn't welcome.
"I do not hear a single North Carolinian telling me, 'Yes, what I want is more partisanship in judicial elections,'" Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, said.
Judges, by definition, should be impartial and as free from partisan influence as possible, he said.
The bill does not affect Supreme Court races or Superior and District Court judges.
"Nonpartisan elections have worked fine," said Rep. Bill Richardson, D-Cumberland, who served in the state House during the 1990s when lawmakers backed nonpartisan elections.
But GOP backers of the bill said voters deserve to know more about judicial candidates and can find it hard to locate information to help them make decisions on judicial candidates.
"I can't believe you want to deny people at least some information," said Rep. Dana Bumgardner, R-Gaston. "Something is better than nothing."