What's the Verdict on N.C. Supreme Court Elections?
Posted October 27, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST
RALEIGH — Who will you vote for in the judicial races on Tuesday? According to a study after the 1996 election, 40 percent of voters did not even know Supreme Court Justices are elected in North Carolina.
The lack of voter education is prompting many to say the state needs to change the way judges are chosen.
Most people have very little to do with judges, so when they go to the polls, deciding who to vote for can be a guessing game.
The decisions made by the North Carolina Supreme Court are vital and effect everyone in the state, but the reality is that a lot of people do not even know who's running for this judicial office.
"You're supposed to put these people in positions of authority and you have no idea what they represent or where they're coming from," voter Rolf Luers said.
This year 39 judicial seats are contested in North Carolina, including two Supreme Court seats.
Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr says judicial candidates are limited about what they can say during the campaign.
"Who wants to contribute to a judicial campaign," Orr said. "It's so difficult for a candidate running for statewide judicial office and even those running in districts to adequately educate the voting public about who they are and what their record is."
Orr believes we need to do what most other states have done, change the way judges are chosen, and make the elections non-partisan.
"There is not enough information out there for the voters," Orr said.
However, the editor of a weekly newspaper for lawyers and judges says voters' guides are the key to solving the problem.
"I think that the public needs more education about who is running," editor Mark Dayton said. "That's the real problem in my mind."
In other states, judges are appointed by the governor or chosen in non-partisan elections. The legislature would have to approve a constitutional amendment to change the way we elect judges in North Carolina.