I love the Indy and I’m glad you tackled the question of “Should North Carolinians elect jurists?” (“Judging the judges,” April 7), but it’s too bad the reporter used so much wrong information to steer readers to his answer.
Damon Circosta of the NC Center for Voter Education is cast as an opponent of appointing judges, which is wrong (he was conveying the results of a poll, not his personal or organization’s position); “most states” are said to use a merit-selection method for appointing judges, but 39 states actually elect judges; and Chief Justice Sarah Parker is portrayed as using private funds to defeat a “less well funded” opponent, but she in fact participated in North Carolina’s public funding program, which enabled her to keep up with her opponent’s aggressive private fundraising.
Furthermore, the reporter misrepresents the maximum amount candidates enrolled in the public funding program can receive and misleads by saying “many of them opt out” of the program. In truth, all 11 candidates eligible for the program in 2010 have enrolled. Since 2004, 42 of 51 candidates have successfully opted in, and three more tried but did not meet the qualifications (it’s not free money; candidates must first meet several public-interest standards). So, only six of 51 “opted out.”
There’s more about the program’s success at www.democracy-nc.org under “reinventing democracy.” Public financing is not a substitute for carefully evaluating the pros and cons of electing judges. You may decide to oppose elections, but as long as we have them, it makes good sense to provide a public financing option to reduce the impact of the fundraising arms race on who can run, who will win and what decisions the winners make in office. The same goes for federal, state legislative, Council of State and many other elections.
The writer is the executive director and research director of Democracy North Carolina.