Q&A: NC Supreme Court, congressional races on ballot Tuesday

Posted June 6, 2016
Updated June 7, 2016

— North Carolina voters will go to the polls Tuesday to settle primaries for state Supreme Court, 11 of 13 U.S. House districts and a handful of local races. The oddly timed election is the result of two different lawsuits and could have unpredictable outcomes.

Polls will be open across the state 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, but political observers aren't expecting a big turnout.

"Statewide, it could be 15 percent of registered voters, maybe," said Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College. "It's safe to say that three-quarters of registered voters will not show up."

That's because most of the highest-profile races, such as the presidential nomination, already went to voters in March. As well, this second primary comes at an unusual time, a month after North Carolina's typical primary date and at a point where more people are attending graduations and getting ready for summer break.

In a typical election year, the primary winner would have to earn 40 percent of the vote or risk a runoff against the second-place challenger. There is no runoff for this primary, so crowded fields plus low turnout could produce surprising results, Bitzer said.

"These are races that nobody will be able to predict until the votes are counted," he said.

Q: Didn't we just have a primary?

A: Yes, we did, on March 15. That primary doled out North Carolina's delegates in the presidential nominating contests and picked Republican, Democratic and Libertarian nominees for offices such as state House and Senate seats, governor and U.S. senator.

Q: So why are we voting again?

A: Due to two different lawsuits.

First, a federal court found that North Carolina lawmakers had unconstitutionally relied too much on race when they drew two of the state's congressional districts in 2011. That ruling forced the General Assembly to draw new maps, and because that ruling came so close to the March 15 primary, the primaries for U.S. House seats had to be rescheduled.

Around the same time, a panel of three state Superior Court judges ruled that a new law calling for state Supreme Court justices to face retention elections was unconstitutional. A retention election would have asked voters whether they wished to keep or replace Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds without him facing any opposition. As a result of that ruling, which was subsequently upheld, the special primary will also give voters the chance to sift through Supreme Court candidates.

Q: Didn't I vote for Congress in March?

A: Yes. But those results weren't tallied. The candidates for U.S. House on the March 15 ballot filed to run based on the old maps. The June 7 election uses the new maps, and there was a whole different filing period.

Q: I missed something along the way. How do I know which congressional district I live in?

A: This handy tool should help. You can also look up your voter registration information on the State Board of Elections website.

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DISCLAIMER: Address locations are estimates based on Google's geolocation service, with boundaries from official maps provided by the N.C. General Assembly. Keep tabs on your official current district through the N.C. State Board of Elections website. The 2016 map won't take affect until it gets federal approval.

Interactive by Tyler Dukes

Q: Now that I know which congressional district I'm in, how do I know if I have someone to vote for?

A: You can use WRAL.com's My Ballot tool to compare and contrast the candidates, including those running for Congress.

Although all races are important, the three most hotly contested in the state are:

2nd Congressional District, Republican primary: Bitzer says it's "very unusual" to have two sitting U.S. House members facing off against one another, especially when legislative maps were drawn by their own party. But 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers and 13th District Congressman George Holding are vying for the same seat after Holding's district was radically redrawn. Dr. Greg Brannon, a Cary obstetrician, is the third candidate in the race.

12th Congressional District, Democratic primary: The 12th District is no longer a snake-shaped area that meanders from Charlotte to Greensboro, but now is a compact "turtle" contained entirely in Mecklenburg County. While the incumbent is Congresswoman Alma Adams, she has been based in the Greensboro end of the district for decades. Among the six challengers on the ballot are well-known local officials such as state Rep. Tricia Cotham and former state Sen. Malcolm Graham.

13th Congressional District, Republican and Democratic primaries: The newly drawn 13th District is west of Greensboro and mixes and matches voters who have typically voted in disparate races, creating a truly open seat with no sitting incumbent. Among the five Democrats running are Bruce Davis, a former Guilford County commissioner, minister Mazie Ferguson, and Kevin Griffin, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate during the March primary.

The Republican primary features 17 candidates, including sitting state Reps. John Blust and Julia Howard and Sen. Andrew Brock, as well as well-known names such as Vernon Robinson and Kay Daly. "It's pretty much a friends and neighbors campaign," Bitzer said. The ultimate winner could move to the general election by landing less than 20 percent of the primary vote.

Q: How does the Supreme Court election work?

A: Supreme Court elections are nonpartisan, so candidate's party affiliations won't be listed on the ballot. This election will narrow the field of four to two, who will face off in November. The candidates are:

  • Bob Edmunds, the incumbent and a registered Republican
  • Sabra Faires, a lawyer now in private practice after years working as a legislative staffer. She is registered unaffiliated.
  • Michael Morgan, a Superior Court judge from Wake County who is presiding over a case involving whether the state's voter ID law is legal. He is a registered Democrat.
  • Daniel Robertson, a former bank vice president and financial adviser. He is a registered Democrat.

Q: Other than Congress and the Supreme Court, is there anything else on the ballot?

A: Yes, a handful of local races. In the WRAL viewing area, voters in some of Wake County will choose which two of five Superior Court candidates will be on the ballot in the fall.

Q: Any rules I need to know about? Do I need bring my ID?

A: Yes, if you have a driver's license, passport or other acceptable ID, bring it to the polls on Tuesday. If you don't have an ID, read up on the reasonable impediment rules. Declaring a reasonable impediment allows you to vote even if you don't have a photo ID.

For those voters who are registered Republicans and Democrats, they must vote in their own party's primary. However, state rules allow unaffiliated voters to choose which party's primary they want to vote in. Unaffiliated voters who chose to vote in one party's primary this March can, if they want, vote in another party's primary for the June election.

You should also know that, even if you find yourself in the wrong precinct on Tuesday, you can still vote if you're in the right county. According to the State Board of Elections, "Voters who appear on Election Day in the correct county but in the improper precinct may cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted for all contests in which the voter was eligible to participate. This 'out-of-precinct voting' option is set to expire after the primary election held June 7, 2016, though the option remains the subject of ongoing litigation in federal court."


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  • Edward Anderson Jun 7, 2016
    user avatar

    WRAL, please pay attention to your hyper-links. The links for the Supreme Court candidates' web sites are all wrong.

  • Michael Bawden Jun 7, 2016
    user avatar

    Republicans are not allowed to use race.
    Federal Court decision.
    "The plaintiffs contend that the congressional map adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2011 violates the Fourteenth Amendment: race was the predominant consideration with respect to both districts, and the General Assembly did not narrowly tailor the districts to serve a compelling interest. The court agrees. "

  • Michael Bawden Jun 7, 2016
    user avatar

    Democrats are allowed to gerrymander.
    Republicans are not.
    Decision to allow 12th stand when democrats drew district.
    "North Carolina had not previously had any Black-majority districts. The first plan drawn by the State had included one Black-majority district. A second Black-majority district was not necessary in order to avoid retrogression under § 5. 116 S. Ct. at 1904. " SHAW vs HUNT
    12th district was allowed to stand for the democrat gerrymandering in the 1990s.
    Now that the Republicans have let it stand it is unconstitutional?