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Overrides of vetoes on 2 election-related bills halfway done

RALEIGH (AP) North Carolina Senate Republicans began carrying out overrides June 19 on a pair of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes of election-related legislation. Cooper had complained that the bills meddle in elections and continue GOP efforts to reshape the courts.

The lawmakers dismissed Cooper’s vetoes on a pair of 31-14 party-line votes. They said one of the measures fixes likely unconstitutional Superior Court election district boundaries in Mecklenburg County. They also criticized Cooper for creating confusion by vetoing the judicial district measure, which also contains judicial changes in three other counties, just before candidate filing began June 18.

The other vetoed bill, voted on by the Senate without debate, requires criminal background checks for key state and county election officials and puts new restrictions on candidates from the new Green and Constitution parties.

The measures now head to the House, where overrides could be completed as early as June 20. If the judicial district bill is enacted, some candidates may have to refile in the middle of the filing period based on redrawn boundaries.

With a late veto, Cooper “wanted to create some chaos,” GOP Sen. Ralph Hise of Mitchell County said during floor debate.

But Democrats said Republican authors of the bill deserve the blame for going well beyond adjusting the Superior Court election districts to fix population imbalances. The measure also would allow voters in Wake and Mecklenburg counties to cast ballots for only a few District Court judge seats within new election boundaries, rather than voting countywide for all District Court judges.

“This bill really does disenfranchise the voters for these two counties,” Democratic Sen. Dan Blue of Wake County said.

In his veto message, Cooper agreed, adding the election district changes create “unnecessary confusion and show contempt for North Carolina’s judiciary.”

But Sen. Dan Bishop, a Mecklenburg County Republican and primary bill sponsor, said it was the governor who showed contempt for citizens by “obstructing the cure” for unconstitutional Superior Court districts in Mecklenburg.

The other vetoed bill prevents the new Green and Constitution parties from nominating for the fall general election any candidate who loses in a primary race for the same office. The Constitution Party nominated 10 legislative and county candidates at its convention over the weekend. It appears three couldn’t run if the “sore loser” provision becomes law because they lost in the Democratic, Republican or Libertarian primaries in May.

That bill also addresses details of how this year’s judicial elections will be administered statewide. The GOP-controlled legislature decided last fall there would be no 2018 primaries for the officially partisan races trial court and appeals court judgeships. The measure directs each candidate’s political affiliation would be on the November ballots.

Cooper, who wants to return to the old method of nonpartisan judicial races, said in his veto message that “continued election meddling for partisan advantage weakens public confidence. Judges’ races should be free of partisan labels.”

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