RALEIGH — I have repeatedly argued in this space that North Carolina’s ballot is too long, that the state’s governors and legislators should decide who holds what office rather than asking voters to choose.
That doesn’t mean I distrust the voters. In fact, I’d like North Carolina to return to the practice of asking voters for approval before issuing new state debt. But when it comes to picking the next insurance commissioner, superintendent of public instruction, or secretary of state, I don’t think direct election is the right answer. I prefer the system that the federal government and many states already use: appointment by the elected chief executive, with confirmation by elected legislators in some cases.
I think such a system would clarify lines of authority. If there is malfeasance in an agency or department, North Carolinians will know precisely whom to blame: the governor. They won’t have to look up the name of the relevant Council of State officer first and then get made at him. Furthermore, if you are a special-interest group trying to buy access to state power via campaign contributions, tossing you in with every other interest group trying to influence a governor’s administration will reduce your leverage.
So far, however, my arguments for shortening the ballot – and those of many other advocates of the reform across the political spectrum – have resulted in precisely zero action. Other issues have, understandably, taken center stage. Moreover, while voters may not always know who the candidates are for every office, that doesn’t mean they value their democratic prerogatives any less. They like the idea of direct election in the abstract, even when they don’t have any real preference in specific contests.
Given these facts, the next best thing is to encourage North Carolinians to research the candidates for Council of State, and for all the other political offices on the ballot, before casting their votes. Here at Carolina Journal, we’re providing readers with one of the most comprehensive collections of election stories they can find anywhere in the state. CJ reporters have already filed stories on the race for the superintendent of public instruction, the lieutenant governor, the labor commissioner, the insurance commissioner, the secretary of state, and the state auditor. Stories on other statewide races will be running this week.
We’ve also written on the pivotal race for state supreme court, the most competitive races in the North Carolina house and senate, and a set of 27 local referendums on the ballot around the state on issues ranging from college construction and political representation to taxpayer-funded baseball stadiums.
Carolina Journal doesn’t do endorsements, and we don’t slant our coverage to favor candidates with whom we might personally agree on issues. These stories provide a fair, balanced treatment of each political contest. So read, ask questions, and cast an informed vote in 2012. Perhaps you can even prove me wrong about that whole “shorten the ballot” thing.
Hey, it’s been known to happen. Occasionally.
Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation and author of Our Best Foot Forward: An Investment Plan for North Carolina’s Economic Recovery.