The North Carolina Democratic Party filed a lawsuit yesterday over the Republican-controlled legislature’s recent move to eliminate judicial primaries in the 2018 election. The General Assembly got rid of the primaries after overriding Governor Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 656, The Electoral Freedom Act.
In addition to eliminating with judicial primaries, the bill also reduces the percentage of votes needed to win an election from 40 percent to 30 percent—in other words, if the field of candidates is big enough, the winner could have the backing of fewer than a third of voters.
Opponents say the bill fits into a broader politicization and remaking of the courts by state Republicans and would have dire consequences for North Carolinians.
“Speaker Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Berger’s cynical move to eliminate judicial primaries deprives the people of North Carolina of their most fundamental right—the right to vote,” NCDP Chairman Wayne Goodwin said in a statement. “Legislative Republicans are rigging the system, not creating a better system of selecting judges. North Carolinians have a right to make an informed decision about who they want as their judicial nominee. This move unjustly eliminates that right and should be immediately struck down.”
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, seeks a preliminary injunction to allow the primaries to move forward. It was filed against Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement (SBOE), and SBOE executive director Kimberly Strach.
“Primaries are essential to the accomplishment of the purposes for which the NCDP, and all other political parties, exist,” Goodwin said in a memorandum in support of the injunction. “Without primaries,
political parties lose the compass they rely on to advance the collective interests and goals of their members. Primary elections give direction to political parties as to the collective will of party members, and determine not only the preferred candidates a party like NCDP has for the general election but also impact the agenda and message of the NCDP heading into the general election.”