Under the Dome

New uncertainties about NC Supreme Court elections

North Carolina Supreme Court justices may find themselves considering a case that could determine how they are elected.

The state Board of Elections has challenged a Superior Court ruling that overturned a 2015 law altering the election process for the state’s highest court.

The justices set an expedited hearing in the case for April 13.

At issue is whether the three-judge Superior Court panel erred when declaring it unconstitutional to hold retention elections for the Supreme Court, as established in a law this past legislative session.

Only one state Supreme Court seat is on the ballot this November, that of associate justice Robert Edmunds.

Under the retention election rule, Edmunds would have run against his record before any other candidates could file a candidacy in the non-partisan race.

Voters would have been asked whether Edmunds should be retained in the post. If voters cast more ballots against his retention than for it, the race would then open to others who wanted to seek the seat.

Sabra Faires, a Wake County attorney, filed a lawsuit last year asking the three-judge panel to toss out the law, arguing that moving from contested elections to up-or-down retention votes required a voter-approved amendment to the state Constitution – something that did not happen.

Faires and two Wake County voters who joined her in the lawsuit faced off against the state Board of Elections in a hearing last month. The three-judge panel ruled in favor of the challengers.

Faires said this week that she plans to file as a candidate.

Edmunds said Thursday that he plans to seek re-election.

Not only could the appeal create more confusion for voters in North Carolina, but legislative leaders added another twist to the case Friday.

The lawmakers sent a letter to the state Board of Elections, contending that it had overstepped its bounds when setting a filing period for state Supreme Court candidates between March 16 and March 25.

The board of elections also set June 7 as a potential election date for winnowing down the candidate field if more than two seek election. That’s the same date that primary elections will be held for North Carolina congressional races.

The General Assembly leaders contend that it is legislators, not election board members, who decide when state elections are held.

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