This week, NC lawmakers approved House Bill 100 – legislation that would make elections for trial court judges partisan.
With no one to stop them, legislative leaders have already turned our state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals races into million-dollar partisan elections, making judges worry about how their decisions will sit with wealthy special interests and party ideologues. House Bill 100 will take the final step in making all North Carolina’s judicial races partisan – and there are more bills coming to politicize everything from school board to town council races. If this trend keeps up, kids will be asked their partisan affiliation on college applications “because it provides more useful information” about them.
The good news is that during Cooper’s tenure as a state legislator, he was a champion for taking partisanship out of judicial races, understanding that politics has no place in our courts. Now, with some House Republicans expressing doubt about this unpopular bill, legislative leadership may not have enough votes to override the governor’s veto. And without a veto-proof majority, Cooper’s veto stamp could restore a more neutral judiciary in the lower courts and represent an important victory for voters who want fewer polarizing laws, not more. Regardless, a veto sends a strong signal that North Carolina needs judges who are more independent, not more partisan.