Editorial: Stand up to legislative ballot rigging: Keep Linda Stephens on the N.C. Court of Appeals
Posted October 27, 2016
A CBC Editorial: Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016; Editorial# 8074
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting
Anyone searching for evidence of rigged elections in North Carolina need look no further than the halls of the Legislative Building.
Whether it has been unconstitutionally gerrymandering congressional and legislative districts, illegally restricting access to voter registration and polling places or manipulating the ballots, the Republican legislative leadership hardly missed a trick.
In several cases, vigilant citizens and the courts have called out these election scammers and foiled some of their plots. Anyone looking for evidence of how the GOP legislative leaders wanted to suppress turnout need look no further than the flood of people showing up the last few days at early voting sites throughout the state. It took a court case and more court orders to force the state and local boards of election to extend the days for early voting and provide a minimally adequate number of voting locations.
One scheme that did slip through endangers experience and knowledge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. In the closing hours of the legislative session, a bill flew through that changed the way names are listed on the ballot.
One highly qualified appeals court judge, Linda Stephens, was targeted by this change. Stephens, with a decade of service on the court, has earned a reputation as a thoughtful and no-nonsense judge.
She was singled out not for her judicial rulings, but because her opponent is the name-sake son of the state’s most powerful legislator – Senate President ProTempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham County.
Prior to the law change Stephens’ name would have been listed first on the statewide ballot. But the last-minute bill, backed by Sen. Berger, assures his son’s name is listed first.
Name position is critical, particularly in lower-profile down-ballot contests. Research by Darren Grant at Sam Houston State University has documented the advantages of being listed first on the ballot -- at 10-percentage points or more.
This last-minute “ballot-rigging” is wrong and does disservice to Stephens, whose endorsements range from the N.C. Police benevolent Association and the N.C. Fraternal Order of Police to the N.C. Sierra Club and N.C. Advocates for Justice.
Other than family affiliation, there is little in Berger Jr.’s record and experience that qualifies him for a seat on the state’s second-highest court – particularly in contrast to the supremely qualified Stephens.
Linda Stephens has earned the support of all voters for her re-election. We strongly endorse her and urge North Carolinians to return her to the state Court of Appeals.
Voters need to stand up to the General Assembly’s ballot manipulations and voter suppression disguised as lawmaking and ballot security. One way to send that message loud and clear is to vote for and return Linda Stephens to the state Court of Appeals.