Senate votes to override Cooper vetoes

The judicial redistricting bill overhauls how Wake County elects District Court judges.

Posted Updated
Proposed Wake County district court judicial districts
Travis Fain
, WRAL statehouse reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — The state Senate voted along party lines Tuesday to overturn a pair of Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes dealing with election law.

Senate Bill 486 runs 12 pages and includes new background checks for elections workers, as well as a tweak for North Carolina's "sore loser law," which will prevent people who lost primary races this year from getting on the general election ballot under the banner of one of the state's new parties, the Constitution and Green parties.

Senate Bill 757 is a less ambitious judicial redistricting bill, compared to efforts the Republican majority discussed during the off-session, which would have tinkered with districts across the state. The bill now addresses population imbalances in Mecklenburg County's Superior Court districts, which was ostensibly a major reason for the redistricting effort when it began last year, and divides District Court judges in both Mecklenburg and Wake counties into smaller districts.

District Court judges in the counties have been running countywide. Republicans said it makes no sense for people across each large county to vote for 20 different District Court judges they've never heard of. Democrats said the change will take away voters' ability to choose the judges they may appear before, since judges will continue to work countywide.

There was no debate on the decision to overturn Senate Bill 486. Senate Bill 757 sparked some back and forth, primarily because Democrats accused the majority of bullying the courts after a series of losses before the judiciary.

Republicans said the uneven Superior Court districts in Mecklenburg County had to be addressed.

"To remind this body, Senate Bill 757 cures an unconstitutional depravation of voter rights of a half million residents of Mecklenburg County," said Sen. Dan Bishop, R-Mecklenburg, adding that the governor's willingness to let that continue "shows contempt for the people."

Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, said Republicans poisoned the well on judicial redistricting last year when Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, surprised judges and much of the legislature by rolling out a plan to change election districts statewide. Burr's proposed districts seemed more likely to elect Republican judges.

Republican senators chastised the governor for waiting the full 10 days he's allowed by law to pull the trigger on the veto, which was delivered to the Senate clerk's home Friday after the legislature had gone home for the weekend.

Because of the timing, filing in this year's District Court judicial races opened Monday with the matter unsettled.

The House is expected to take up the two override votes on Wednesday.


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