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In basic civics we learn about the three branches of government and their roles: legislative branch - makes laws, executive branch - carries out laws, and the judicial branch - interprets the laws. Many of us know the least about the judiciary, but are learning quickly about its importance on both the national and state levels. This article, Why judges are in control of N.C. politics, discusses the increasing importance of the judiciary during a time when there is ongoing controversy about the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches. We're going to look more closely at NC's judicial races this week.

Very recently, "judges were making key decisions that were determining what voters will see on their ballots and even whether we’ll be able to vote for our congressional representatives this November." Among the key issues still being deliberated in our courts is partisan gerrymandering.

Here's an introduction to North Carolina's judicial system, called the General Court of Justice. There are three court divisions. "The Superior and District Court divisions are the trial court divisions that hold trials to determine the facts of cases." The Superior and District Courts are "divided into superior court districts for both electoral and administrative purposes." The appellate division decides "only questions of law when a party appeals a case" and is made up of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. Read more about the makeup and function of these divisions here and here.

So what do I need to know about North Carolina's judicial elections this year? First, all judicial races are partisan this year. Read more here about the history of partisan and nonpartisan judicial elections in NC. Second, judges will be elected differently if you live in Wake, Mecklenburg, New Hanover or Pender counties. Read more here about district court changes that affect Wake and Mecklenburg and changes to Superior Court which affect Mecklenburg, New Hanover and Pender counties. Check back tomorrow to learn more about the big race for NC Supreme Court. Later this week, we'll look at the three seats up for election in the Court of Appeals and give you some tips about learning about your local district and superior court elections.

Most importantly, VOTE!  

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