Politics & Government

The elections are just around the corner, and we finally know what will be on the ballot

After multiple lawsuits challenging different parts of the 2018 elections came to a temporary close this week, North Carolina officials finally know what exactly will be on the ballot this November when voters go to the polls.

This was a rare year, with numerous lawsuits against the state and its Republican-led legislature forcing the N.C. Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to miss deadlines for printing ballots.

But one lawsuit challenging partisan labels for the candidates running for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court wrapped up last month. And on Tuesday, so did three other lawsuits that had been challenging proposed constitutional amendments and U.S. House election district lines that judges have found were gerrymandered.

The results in the four lawsuits were mixed. The legislature won two lawsuits that had been filed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the state chapter of the NAACP, challenging some of the constitutional amendment proposals. Those cases mean the amendments can all now go before voters.

The legislature lost the other two lawsuits. One case found that they had violated the rights of a controversial Supreme Court candidate, Chris Anglin, by trying to keep him from being listed on the ballot as a Republican.

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In the other lawsuit, judges found state lawmakers created unconstitutional districts for the state’s 13 U.S. House of Representatives seats. However, the plaintiffs who won that case said the ruling came too close to the election for new lines to be drawn in time for an acceptable election do-over, and the judges agreed, so the elections will go on with the maps deemed unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule on the gerrymandering issue.

This year’s election is being called a “blue moon” election because it’s relatively rare in that there are few prominent statewide races. There’s no election for president, governor or U.S. Senate. Nearly all the races are local or regional, open only to voters in particular districts.

What will be on the ballot

North Carolina General Assembly: All 120 seats in the NC House of Representatives and all 50 seats in the NC Senate are up for election this November, and almost every single one is being contested — a huge change from 2016, when nearly half of those 170 seats went uncontested. The districts being used in this election are new, since the map used in 2016 was found to be an unconstitutional racial gerrymander and was redrawn. So people who voted for (or against) their current state senator or representative in 2016 might be voting for totally different candidates this year. Republicans hold a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate, and Democrats need to flip four seats in the House or six seats in the Senate to break that supermajority.

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U.S. House of Representatives: All North Carolinians live in one of the 13 districts that are all up for election this year. And even though these districts were just ruled to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered — just like the previous district maps were — the election will go ahead using the current lines. Republicans hold a 10-3 advantage, although political observers believe a national surge of liberal enthusiasm might help Democrats oust some Republican incumbents.

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North Carolina Supreme Court: Democratic challenger Anita Earls faces two Republicans, the incumbent Justice Barbara Jackson as well as challenger Anglin. The court currently has a 4-3 Democratic advantage, which will remain the case if Jackson or Anglin win. If Earls wins, Democrats will have a 5-2 advantage.

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Constitutional amendments: All six amendments that legislators wanted will be on the ballot. Two will transfer power from the governor to the legislature, regarding influence over judges and the board of elections. One will lower the state’s maximum possible income tax rate, although it won’t change anyone’s taxes now. One will establish voter ID laws, after the state’s last attempt to do so was ruled unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. One will re-affirm that people have a right to hunt and fish. One will grant extra rights in the criminal justice system to people who were the victims of crimes.

North Carolina Court of Appeals: There are 15 judges on this court, and three seats are up for election this year. Two of those seats belong to Republicans who aren’t seeking re-election, and the third belongs to a Democrat who is seeking re-election. The court currently has a 10-5 Republican majority, so it will still be majority Republican after this election no matter what. The main question is exactly how large of an advantage the Republican majority will have — anywhere from a broad 11-4 majority to a slim 8-7 majority.

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Various local races: There are also local elections in counties all around the state, like for trial court judges, that will be on the ballot alongside the state and federal contests.

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Important election information

Instructions for registering to vote: www.ncsbe.gov/Voters

Find your polling place: vt.ncsbe.gov/PPLkup

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Voter registration deadline (in order to vote on Election Day): Friday, Oct. 12 at 5 p.m.

Deadline to request an absentee ballot: Tuesday, Oct. 30

Same-day registration: People who missed the Oct. 12 registration deadline can still vote during early voting, since the state allows people to register for the first time, or update their registration, at the polls during early voting. That isn’t allowed on Election Day itself, however.

Early voting period: Wednesday, Oct. 17 until Saturday, Nov. 3.

Election Day: Tuesday, Nov. 6

Use the database below to get to know the candidates seeking your vote in Wake, Durham and Orange counties' 2018 elections and find more coverage of the races at newsobserver.com/election.

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Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran
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