If you want good policies that allow all North Carolinians to thrive, you first need fair elections. To get there, we need good courts.

My Democratic colleagues and I know how to make North Carolina stronger. We want to invest money in clean technologies to boost our economy and stop polluting our climate. We want to better fund our schools and create opportunities for our children. We want to ensure every woman has the right to make her own healthcare decisions. We want to ensure that no person in our state goes broke under the weight of medical debt.

The ideas we have are supported by the majority of North Carolinians. But we can only make them reality when every voice in the state is heard through free and fair elections.

This year our courts have shown just what can be done to protect our democracy. For the first time ever in North Carolina, partisan gerrymandering was declared to be illegal. Our state supreme court threw out maps that Republicans had drawn to give themselves an unfair electoral advantage and demanded that more fair maps replace them.

Thanks to our courts, this year over 55,000 former felons can exercise their right to vote for the very first time since their convictions.

And, thanks to our courts, Republicans’ repeated attempt to install a voter ID requirement they know would limit the voices of Black and brown voters, as well as trans North Carolinians, have been struck down time after time.

In short, courts are the backstop for our democracy. As The American Independent put it, “For the past several years, the state’s highest court has prevented some Republican lawmakers’ ploys from taking permanent partisan control of the state Legislature, including ongoing attempts to gerrymander and disenfranchise many of the state’s Black voters.”

For years, special interests have spent millions to elect a GOP-controlled legislature that favors big business and corporate polluters over the needs of hard-working North Carolinians.  

They are not stopping there. This year they are taking aim at our democracy itself by funding judicial candidates who have vowed to slash away at protections for fair elections before they have even ascended to the bench.

With one hand, the current leaders of the GOP accuse judges with whom they disagree of carrying out a partisan agenda, while with the other they have worked since 2013 to construct a judicial system that is more overtly partisan. Why? So that they can flood judicial races and candidates with partisan money—and thus exert more influence over those would-be judges.

To be clear, we don’t need ideologues. We don’t need judges who have made up their minds about legal cases before they’ve even been presented with facts and law. We don’t need judges who will vote in lockstep with others. We don’t need judges who will protect Democrats—we need judges who will protect democracy.

We need judges who recognize that our job as legislators is to serve the people, as our constitution states: “All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole” (NC Const. Art I. Sec. 2).

There are two seats up for election to the supreme court and four to the court of appeals. These are vital positions. Those who win them will have eight-year terms and will see cases that will shape everything from how our elections are run to how our laws are interpreted. I encourage everyone to learn their platforms and get involved in their campaigns.

Let’s ensure the will of the people of North Carolina can be done. 

Graig Meyer is a North Carolina state representative from Orange County. He is currently running for the state Senate District 23 seat.

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle. 

Comment on this story at backtalk@indyweek.com.