When I’m not Stamping NC Blue, spending time with my wife and dogs, or riding my bike, I’m an attorney (I’m one of the good and boring ones, I swear!). So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the upcoming judicial elections in North Carolina. This November’s ballot will be a doozy: we North Carolinians will elect more than 149 judges across the state. 1 On your ballot, you’ll see the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals races and depending on where you live – you may also see superior court and district court races.
Thanks to the “wisdom” (ahem) of the 2017 NCGA, we didn’t have judicial primaries in North Carolina this year (a lawsuit on the matter is still pending but even if the NCGA law is overturned, we’ve run out of time for a 2018 primary).2 So – who will we see on our ballots in November? The names of each and every “qualified” person who files proper paperwork to run for the various judicial offices.3
Now is the part where might you ask, “But Heather, aren’t more candidates and more choices a better thing?” And my answer is going to be one of those annoying lawyer responses of, “Yes and no.”
First and foremost – yes, our state and our nation need qualified, enthusiastic, compassionate people to run for (and be elected to) office. So, if you’re interested, get yourself organized and please, run for something!4 And yes, it’s important (and dare I say democratic!) for voters to have multiple candidates to choose from in the primary election.
But, no – having a long list of candidates to choose from in these judicial general elections is actually problematic because the “winner” only has to get 30% of the votes – a plurality, not a majority (put another way, 70% of the voters didn’t vote for the “winner”).5 And, let’s face it – we as humans are lazy, easily confused,6 and not terribly hard to deceive… Particularly when it comes to elections. (Yes – I said it!) The average voter is going to be uninformed, overwhelmed, and confused by all the names and less likely to make an informed decision. They’re more likely to just randomly pick a name or skip that race altogether. And, that’s exactly what the folks who passed this law are counting on (but I’ll save my treatise on why opposing a veto-proof supermajority is not a partisan stance for another time).
So, what does this all mean? In order for North Carolina to have an “informed electorate” – we’re going to have our work cut out for us this summer and fall, particularly with regard to the judicial elections. Keep your eyes on this website shortly after June 29th (the filing deadline for all judicial races is noon that day)7 to find out what’s next.8
: Resources: https://lillianslist.org/runforoffice/,
: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article197672199.html ↩
: https://www.ncsbe.gov/Elections/Candidate-Filing ↩
: Obligatory reference to The West Wing. #sorrynotsorry↩