While the nation and media focus on the major political races for President, Senate and Governor, major down ballot issues are being ignored that will have more immediate impact on the lives of voters. Of particular note is the North Carolina and supreme court race which has the potential of mitigating, if not changing, the dynamics of the court and subsequently state laws.
Kari Travis, of the Carolina Journal recently opined on this issue and her observations which follow in part, should concern all voters in the upcoming 2020 election.
The most important elections in North Carolina are the races for the N.C. Supreme Court.
So, pay attention!
Judges are easily forgotten amid presidential campaigns and Washington antics. Media obsessions and arguments over COVID-19 add to the din. But in a year when so many freedoms are suffocated by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s arbitrary mandates, the only path to defend those freedoms is through the courts.
So far, that path has offered no relief to North Carolinians, who want only to open their businesses and exercise their freedoms.
That’s because all state court battles end in the state’s highest court, where Democrats hold a 6-1 majority. Those judges have shown — most recently in a bowling alley reopening lawsuit — that they’re likely to side with Cooper.
But on Nov. 3, the power dynamics might shift. Three seats on the N.C. Supreme Court are in contention, and three Republicans are jostling with Democrats for a place on the bench. GOP candidates are a team, and they’re running under one brand.
Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby, the only remaining Republican on the court, is running for the court’s top job against current seat holder — and Cooper appointee — Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. Court of Appeals Judge Phil Berger Jr., a Republican and the son of the N.C. Senate leader, is running against fellow Appeals Court Judge Lucy Inman for Newby’s vacated seat. Former Republican State Sen. Tamara Barringer of Wake County is facing off against Justice Mark Davis, a Democrat appointed to the court by Cooper in 2019.
The outcome of judicial elections will determine the laws governing North Carolinians in the years ahead, says Jon Guze, director of legal studies at the John Locke Foundation.
“Voters need to remember that the North Carolina Supreme Court has become a super legislature,” Guze said. “As a result of judicial doctrines adopted in the second half of the 20th century, the court now has the power to uphold facially unconstitutional laws if a majority of the justices approve of them on policy grounds, to strike down facially constitutional laws if a majority of the justices disapprove of them on policy grounds, and to change the meaning of laws — and of the Constitution — in order to advance the majority’s policy preferences.”
Even a four-member majority on the seven-person Supreme Court wields more power than the General Assembly and the governor combined, Guze said.
The fate of Opportunity Scholarships, redistricting, and voter ID — to name a few issues — will be decided by those judges we elect Nov. 3.