RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s governor vetoed Republican-backed legislation that would have eliminated 2018 judicial primaries among other electoral changes.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said Monday the legislation would erode voters’ ability to choose judges. The bill would eliminate primaries for 2018 judicial races ranging from the state Supreme Court to district courts. It left November general elections in place, but delayed the candidate filing period.
“This legislation abolishes a scheduled election and takes away the right of the people to vote for the judges of their choice,” Cooper said.
Democrats have said eliminating the primary would give voters less of a chance to learn about candidates, making the general election more of a free-for-all. Cooper also argued Monday that the move was part of a larger plan by legislative leaders to give the General Assembly more say in the makeup of North Carolina’s judiciary.
GOP legislative leaders have said eliminating the primaries would give them more time to study planned changes to judicial election districts. The House passed a plan to redraw the districts, but the Senate isn’t expected to consider the maps before next year’s legislative session.
Monday marks the 13th time the first-term governor has issued a veto, with most already overridden by the GOP-controlled legislature.
Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Ralph Hise, Republican leaders of the legislature’s elections committees, issued a statement urging an override of Monday’s veto. Lewis said the legislation “gives judicial candidates the time they need to analyze any forthcoming changes to judicial maps that the General Assembly may make.”
The vetoed legislation would also have reduced requirements for unaffiliated candidates to run in a variety of state and local elections, among other changes.
Also Monday, Cooper signed into law a wide-ranging bill largely made up of technical changes to the state budget. However, Democrats denounced a provision preventing Attorney General Josh Stein from delegating to local prosecutors the job of representing the state in criminal appeals. Stein, a Democrat, has already seen millions of dollars in budget cuts from legislators.
Cooper complained of what he called partisan attacks on Stein, but the governor believes the legislation includes important provisions on the state film grant program and compensation for school principals.
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