Raleigh, N.C. — The state House gave preliminary approval Thursday to a plan to end nonpartisan elections for seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
Sponsor Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham, said statewide judicial candidates ran in partisan races until 2004, and political parties have continued to back their slates of preferred candidates ever since, even though the races were nominally nonpartisan.
"People are not any more or less partisan because they have to list their parties on the ballot," Jones said.
He called House Bill 8 an effort at transparency and giving voters more information about candidates.
The State Board of Elections already produces a booklet of information on appellate judge candidates, and Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, said more information about them could be provided online. Any voter who really wants to know the political leanings of a candidate could check his or her voter registration information on the elections board's website, he said.
"Going to partisan elections is not the solution," Martin said, warning, "We're going to elect more judicial activists, both from the left and from the right."
Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, agreed, calling the measure "a bad bill" that has "many pitfalls."
"If you start electing your judiciary by parties and you have a majority of Republicans on the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, how do you think they’re going to rule on the laws that you pass?" Michaux asked.
He also noted that requiring party affiliation could block unaffiliated candidates from seeking appellate judgeships.
After the 65-48 vote, a final vote will be held Monday night before House Bill 8 moves to the Senate.