Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: Legislative leaders seek to turn N.C. into Banana Republic

Posted October 6, 2017 5:00 a.m. EDT

CBC Editorial: Friday, Oct. 6, 2017; Editorial # 8220
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

There are regimes in the world that, barring disasters, cancel elections. They are derisively called Banana Republics, run by juntas whose strongman rulers aren’t quite sure they’ve rigged the voting to come out in their favor.

Unfortunately these days, we don’t have to look beyond our borders – or even our state – to see this kind of undemocratic behavior.

Senate Leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, House Rules boss David Lewis are the junta and North Carolina is a banana republic.

They are cancelling the 2018 judicial and district attorney primaries because their efforts at rigging the elections through their latest gerrymandering scheme might not completely do the trick.

Primaries for state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals will also be cancelled – even though they’re statewide votes and not connected with any redistricting.

"The reason we are delaying the filing for judicial offices is, we are serious about judicial redistricting," Lewis told WRAL’s Laura Leslie. He says he noticed that many members of the public and the judiciary had advised lawmakers to "take our time and get it right."

The reality is – and Lewis and his cabal know it --- that there was NO outcry from the public, the judiciary or district attorneys to change the districts. There WAS a nearly unanimous outcry from judges, district attorneys, court administrators and others against the secretive effort, hatched in the darkest corners of the legislature, to redraw judicial and district attorney districts for purely partisan advantage.

The scheme has NOTHING to do with making the administration of justice better, more efficient or equitable.

In fact it’s just the opposite. It will make justice more cumbersome and result in more costly legal challenges. It is shameful and disgraceful.  It smacks of the kind of shenanigans bush-league dictators pull.

Add this latest travesty to the pile of bad public policy case studies to spring forth from the legislature.

Handling this issue properly isn’t complicated and doesn’t require cancelling, delaying or changing any elections.

The remedy, if legislators insist on moving ahead with addressing judicial districts, is simple.

First, don’t do anything with the upcoming judicial elections. Allow them to continue as normal.

Next, work with the state’s judges, the district attorneys, court administrators and others, to put together a non-partisan study commission to fully review the make-up of the current judicial districts – what is working and what isn’t. Hold hearings around the state to hear from citizens about how the courts operate, what the problems are and what might be done to make them better.

The commission would then compile what they learned and offer any recommendations to make courts and the selection of our judges and prosecutors better.

Legislators could then take a thoughtful approach toward putting together a set of changes, if necessary, and have them ready for the 2020 elections.

Truly, take the time to do it right. Put changes in place to make courts better, to enable the best candidates for judicial office to run and for citizens to be in a position to make knowledgeable choices.

Legislative leaders need to stop treating the state as their private political playground.

This latest scheme isn’t a clever political maneuver. It is partisan strong-arming at its worst.

This needs to get Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto stamp and legislators need to come to their senses and adopt a more thoughtful approach if they continue to insist on any kind of judicial redistricting.

Capitol Broadcasting Company's Opinion Section seeks a broad range of comments and letters to the editor. Our Comments beside each opinion column offer the opportunity to engage in a dialogue about this article.

In addition, we invite you to write a letter to the editor about this or any other opinion articles. Here are some tips on submissions >> SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE EDITOR