Most Of North Carolina GOP’s Power Grabbing Gambits Fail

Sara D. Davis/Getty Images North America

The schemes North Carolina’s GOP legislature hatched to entrench their electoral advantage fell short – or outright backfired — Tuesday, where it looks like the Republican lawmakers’ chokehold on the purple state will have loosened a bit.

A Democrat beat the GOP incumbent for the state Supreme Court, after a failed Republican attempt to rig the election in favor of the incumbent judge. The GOP ballot initiatives that sought to usurp executive power from the Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper were defeated. Whether the GOP will maintain control of both legislative chambers is still too close to call. But it appears that the Republican super-majority— which has allowed the legislature to override Cooper’s vetoes — has been broken.

Taken together, these developments stand to have a major impact on voting rights in the state, which Cooper won narrowly in 2016 while its heavily gerrymandered map allowed Republicans to maintain their legislative super-majority.

With their veto-override abilities, Republicans attempted a power grab of Cooper’s executive authorities. One of the the ballot measures they put up for a vote on Tuesday would have allowed the legislature to severely limit the governor’s options for judicial nominees. Another would have taken away the governor’s powers to appoint members to the state ethics and elections board, and given the authority to lawmakers.

Despite concerns that the ballot measures were misleadingly worded, voters rejected them soundly on Tuesday.

The GOP legislature also sought to change the electoral playing field for judges to boost the advantage of incumbent Supreme Court Judge Barbara Jackson. They added party ID to judicial race ballots, to make sure Republicans voted for the Republican. And they eliminated the primary for judicial elections, in favor of a free-for-all general election, hoping it would bring multiple Democrats candidates to the general election race while assuming no Republican would run against Jackson.

Instead, only one Democrat entered the race, while another judicial candidate  — who had recently switched parties — ran as a Republican. With the GOP challenger Chris Anglin splitting the Republican vote with Jackson, Democrat Anita Earls cruised to victory.

The court — which Democrats will control 5-2 — could potentially play a major role when it comes to checking gerrymandering in the state, and perhaps may strike down the current map in time for 2020.

Republicans did succeed in a ballot initiative enshrining a voter ID into the state’s constitution — an initiative that came after a federal appeals court knocked down an omnibus voting law that included voter ID because it was intentionally discriminatory towards minority voters.

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