Gov. Cooper Vetoes Bill To Eliminate 2018 Judicial Primaries

Oct 9, 2017

North Carolina's governor vetoed Republican-backed legislation that would have eliminated 2018 judicial primaries among other electoral changes.
Credit Logan Ulrich / WUNC

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 that 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. Legislative leaders didn't immediately respond to an email asking if they planned an override this time.

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, one provision decried by Democrats prevents Attorney General Josh Stein from delegating to local district attorneys the job of representing the state in criminal appeals. The Democratic attorney general has already seen millions of dollars in budget cuts from legislators.

Cooper said he opposes 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.