Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed SB 656, the most significant ballot access reform bill in NC’s modern history. Once again, an establishment party has place politics over principle. Democrats have always claimed to champion “voter rights.” Yet the governor vetoed a bill that would have given all voters the right to vote for more people for all officers because of the claim that canceling judicial primaries in one year is “taking away the right of the people to vote for the judge of their choice.”
In his veto message, the governor claims this is the “first step toward a constitutional amendment that would rig the system so that the legislature would pick everybody’s judges in every district instead of letting the people vote for the judges they want.”
This reasoning is curious because no such constitutional amendment bill exists. And even it did, a majority of North Carolina voters would have to approve it. So how would that be rigging the system? That is how a constitutional republic works.
Sadly, SB 656 has become entangled in the partisan “I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I” bickering. The original version of the bill passed the state Senate unanimously in April. A slightly revised version passed the House in June in a bipartisan vote. In fact, only seven Republican opposed it.
The bill went to a conference committee to reconcile differences between the versions. Unfortunately, when it got to the Senate floor this week, Republicans attached an unrelated provision to cancel the 2018 judicial primaries to the bill. This drew Democratic opposition, and no Democrats voted for the final version of the bill when it passed both houses.
UPDATE: The General Assembly may vote on an override of this veto Tuesday.
It is not clear when the legislature will consider an override vote. It may not come until the short session in January. Meanwhile, all advocates can do is call, email or possibly visit their legislators and the leadership of both parties, and ask them to put principle over politics. Here are some talking points to use when contacting your legislator. If you legislator asks for additional information, please contact me.
Meanwhile, NC’s “major” media have misrepresented, or missed, the impact of this bill, instead focusing on the partisan squabbling over a judicial primary. Only the Carolina Journal reported on the primary purpose of the bill.