North Carolina Republicans gerrymandered their way into a hammer-lock on the state legislature, which they will control indefinitely, barring action from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Now, they’re going after the state’s courts.
Republicans have already turned judicial races back into partisan contests, and they’re shrinking the size of the Court of Appeals so that Gov. Roy Cooper, a confessed Democrat, can’t appoint any justices to it if a vacancy opened up.
Now, in yet another special session, the GOP seems to be mopping up.
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The state House just passed another major redistricting bill, redrawing the boundaries for the districts that elect local judges and district attorneys. Critics say the plan will give rural voters more influence in elections than city folks, and will implicitly give a boost to Republican candidates.
Meanwhile, out of the blue, on Thursday, the state House and Senate voted to cancel all primaries for judicial races – Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Superior Court and District Court – in 2018.
This radical measure, like so many recent Republican ideas in the General Assembly, was snuck into an unrelated bill without committee hearing.
What does this mean? Well, critics point out that primaries winnow the field, so to speak. Without a primary, voters could face ballots with the names of up to 20 candidates for judgeships on them.
Making an informed decision in a judicial race is hard enough. Candidates are often little known to the general public, and ethical canons limit what judicial candidates can say about themselves and what they can promise.
The result will probably be chaos, with “winners” being chosen by 20 percent of the vote or less. Those odds will undoubtedly favor incumbents, Republicans in particular.
And that’s not all, folks. Rumors are floating around Raleigh that the GOP leadership plans to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to do away with electing judges altogether.
Instead, the state would adopt “merit selection” – GOP style. New judges would be selected by – you guessed it – the General Assembly.
This has nothing to do with principles, conservative or liberal. This is raw back-room politics, Tammany Party style.
Republicans used to whine about the bad old days when no lawyer in the GOP had a hope of a state judgeship, no matter how able they were. That was wrong back then. And this GOP power grab is wrong now.
It’s one more reason why the gang in the Legislative Building needs to be broken up – and why our local legislators need to be grilled on why they play along with these shenanigans.