News: Quick Takes

Cooper’s first veto targets partisan judicial elections

Gov. Roy Cooper’s first veto would block a bill to restore party labels to N.C. judicial elections. Cooper’s office announced the veto of House Bill 100 Thursday afternoon.

The governor announced the veto with a prepared statement. “North Carolina wants its judges to be fair and impartial, and partisan politics has no place on the judges’ bench. We need less politics in the courtroom, not more. Judges make tough decisions on child abuse, divorce, property disputes, drunk driving, domestic violence and other issues that should be free from politics. This bill reverses that progress.”

“We should let people elect judges based on their experience and ability to do the job, not which party they pick,” the statement continues.

“I am also concerned that judges who have chosen to register as unaffiliated voters so as to avoid partisan politics now have a difficult path to getting on the ballot.”

Amy Auth, spokeswoman for Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, responding to the veto, referred to several legal actions the governor has joined against the legislature.

“If the governor believes ‘partisan politics has no place on the judges’ bench,’ he should stop suing the legislature when he loses political battles,” Auth said in a statement.

“In the 2016 election, almost 800,000 fewer North Carolinians voted in the Supreme Court race than in the presidential race because they did not have enough information about the judicial candidates. Surely, Gov. Cooper does not wish to suppress voter turnout in our judicial races,” Auth said.

The Republican-led General Assembly can override Cooper’s veto with votes from three-fifths of the members present and voting in both the N.C. House and Senate. The bill’s vote history does not offer a clear sense of whether that will happen.

H.B. 100 originally cleared the House with a 65-51 vote. Sixty-four Republicans and one Democrat voted “yes,” while six Republicans joined 45 Democrats in voting no. That margin (56 percent voting yes) falls short of a three-fifths majority.

But changes to the bill in the N.C. Senate boosted House support for H.B. 100. During its final vote on the Senate’s version of the bill, the House approved the measure with a veto-proof 74-43 majority. Two Democrats joined 72 Republicans in supporting the measure. Just one Republican joined 42 Democrats in voting no.

Senators approved H.B. 100 with a veto-proof 32-15 majority.