Court Stops North Carolina GOP From Stripping Candidate of Party Affiliation Just to Win Judicial Race

All the eleventh-hour changes Republicans in North Carolina are making to election law continue to catch up to them.

Raleigh attorney Chris Angli and GOP Justice Barbara Jackson (Facebook)

On Monday, the North Carolina Wake County Superior Court blew up the Republican Party's latest attempt to change the ballot in their favor — and left them with a self-inflicted wound that stands to jeopardize their chances of holding onto a seat on the state Supreme Court.

Judge Rebecca Holt decided to grant the injunction sought by Raleigh attorney Chris Anglin, who is challenging GOP Justice Barbara Jackson, to stay a law just passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature that would have blocked him from appearing on the ballot as a second Republican.

"We showed that their actions were specifically targeted and there was no valid argument they could present that they weren't targeting it at us specifically," said Anglin to reporters. "It's crystal clear that they want to make the judiciary a division of the legislature, and that they'll do anything to help their candidate win."

Republicans only found themselves in the situation of trying to strip Anglin of his GOP affiliation in the first place because of a dramatic shakeup in the judicial election prompted by their own prior changes to state law.

After Democrats won a liberal majority on the state Supreme Court in 2016, which promptly began striking down the heavily-gerrymandered Republican legislature's illegal power grabs, the GOP sprung into action, passing a series of laws designed to prevent Jackson from losing her own seat in 2018.

Among those changes: partisan affiliations on judicial ballots, so their supporters could more easily identify who was conservative, and the abolition of judicial primaries, in the hope that multiple Democrats would then run on the same ballot and split the vote.

These changes backfired when no Democrats stepped up to challenge progressive civil rights lawyer and former Clinton Justice Department official Anita Earls, but Anglin filed to challenge Jackson as a Republican. Consequently, there is now a risk that Republicans, rather than Democrats, will split their vote in November and lose the race.

The North Carolina Republican Party broadly accused Anglin of being a plant, noting he was a registered Democrat until a few weeks ago, and promptly passed a new law to strip party affiliation from any candidate on the ballot who has not had their party affiliation for more than 90 days. Anglin sued to block the law, and the latest court decision handed him a victory by putting it on hold.

Republicans have only themselves to blame for the situation they find themselves in. They tried repeatedly to rig the rules of judicial races, and as a consequence find themselves in more electoral peril than ever.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.