Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: Appeal reminds voters legislative leaders are elections cheaters

Posted August 15, 2018 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated August 15, 2018 5:57 a.m. EDT

How judicial candidates will be listed on ballots.

CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018; Editorial #8334
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company


The leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly don’t need more opportunities to remind voters they’re elections cheaters.

But that’s just what they’re doing in appealing state Superior Court Judge Rebecca Holt’s decision that ordered newly-minted Republican Chris Anglin be identified with the GOP on the state Supreme Court ballot. They’d have been wiser to live with her correct assessment and avoid more publicity and defeat in higher courts.

There’s some important background that’s been largely ignored or misstated that is worth presenting to understand why the legislative leadership’s behavior in this particular matter has been so outrageous. Their problems and complaints are almost entirely self-inflicted.

Last year the Republican legislative leadership changed the rules to elect judges in 2018. While largely an effort to provide more time to complete work on gerrymandering local judicial districts, it was to boost statewide GOP candidates for Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

They’d already dismantled the state’s non-partisan system for electing judges – a national model. As a result, candidates for judicial offices ran in partisan primaries and were identified on the November election ballot as Republicans or Democrats.

At significant taxpayer expense, these unnecessary laws were defended in the federal court system. The legislators won. But schemers, in their haste and deviousness, don’t always look at all the details.

Primaries are internal functions of political parties – ways to winnow the field of candidates to represent the Democrats or Republicans on the fall election ballot. The rules that govern primaries – for example that a candidate must have been a member of the political party for at least 90 days before filing to run for an office – are set for participation in a political party’s function. How long a candidate’s been a member of a political party – or even membership in a political party -- isn’t a qualification for office.

Without a primary, when and why Chris Anglin decided he wanted to be a Republican is irrelevant. The rule when he – and every other candidate for judicial office – filed was to identify him by the political affiliation at the time. Nothing more. Nothing less.

State Senate leader Phil Berger and Senate Elections Chairman Ralph Hise along with House Speaker Tim Moore and House Rules Chairman David Lewis were closely involved with putting the laws together changing judicial elections this year. No one should have known better how they’d work.

They fought in court to uphold the laws that eliminated judicial primary elections and set out a different election process. There is little reason, other than a stubborn notion that insisting what is wrong is right will somehow make it so, to continue the legal fight.

It may not have been what legislative leaders intended, but it is what they did and they’re stuck. Continuing the battle won’t change the rules, just waste taxpayer dollars.

It will be a vivid reminder of just who has been working to manipulate elections and distort the will of the voters.

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