The Latest: Bill seeks to reduce judges’ terms to 2 years
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on actions by the North Carolina legislature to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of an elections bill that would cancel judicial primaries next year and lower ballot-access thresholds for third-party and unaffiliated candidates (all times local):
More frequent elections for North Carolina judicial seats would occur if legislation unveiled by some key Republicans is approved, then agreed to by the state’s voters.
Chairmen of the House and Senate rules committees released a proposal Tuesday that would reduce terms for trial and appeals court judges to two years. District Court judges currently serve four-year terms, while Superior Court and Court of Appeals judges and Supreme Court justices get eight-year terms.
Under the proposal, voters would decide in May whether to reduce the terms and put all incumbents up for re-election the following November.
Legislative support for the bill is unclear, and a news release announcing the bill suggests it could be designed to spite Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
The governor issued a veto the General Assembly overrode earlier Tuesday of a bill that cancelled next May’s primary elections for judicial seats while judicial selection changes are considered.
Small political parties in North Carolina are praising legislation that will make it easier for them to field candidates up and down the ballot.
Leaders of the Libertarian Party, Green Party and Constitution Party in North Carolina say ballot access provisions in a bill taking effect in 2018 are the most important in decades. The Legislature overrode a veto of the bill Tuesday.
North Carolina historically has been one of the most restrictive ballot-access states. A new political party had to collect signatures from voters equal to 2 percent of the votes cast for governor — a level only Libertarians have reached in recent years. Now, the threshold will fall from 95,000 signatures to 12,000. It also will be easier for a party to participate in the presidential primary and general election.
The bill also reduces thresholds for unaffiliated candidates to get on the ballot for many offices.
There are now no plans to hold primary elections for trial court and appeals court races next year. That’s because the General Assembly has completed its override of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill containing the one-time cancellation.
The House finished the override with a 72-40 vote Tuesday morning. The Senate voted to make the bill law despite Cooper’s objections Monday night.
Republican in charge of the legislature sought to stop the primaries because they say it would reduce confusion if they act early next year and redraw judicial election boundaries for District Court and Superior Court judges. The House approved such a redistricting earlier this month and the Senate could take them up in January. The bill also pushes back candidate filing for those seats from February to June.
Legislation making it easier for third-party and unaffiliated candidates to get on North Carolina ballots but also reworking judicial elections for 2018 could soon become law despite Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s objections.
The House scheduled a Tuesday morning session to consider an override of Cooper’s veto of the bill approved two weeks ago. The Senate voted to override Monday evening.
Cooper vetoed the bill because he was unhappy with a portion that would cancel primary elections for local and statewide court seats next year and delay candidate filing for those jobs until June.
Republicans controlling both chambers say the judicial changes would give them more time to consider redrawing judicial election boundaries and possibly a constitutional amendment altering how judges are chosen. Cooper says it’s just another GOP power grab.