In a critical victory for fair elections and the rule of law, North Carolina voters have elected civil rights crusader Anita Earls as the next Democratic justice of the state Supreme Court. Just as importantly, voters rejected two deceptively written constitutional amendments that Republicans had put on the ballot so they could pack that very same court to stop it from curtailing their worst-in-the-nation gerrymandering and voter suppression. Furthermore, voters rejected Republican legislators' ploy to usurp Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's power to appoint the state Board of Elections in their quest to prevent Democrats from expanding early voting.
Indeed, Earls' victory over GOP Justice Barbara Jackson, which was astonishingly aided by a GOP election-rigging scheme blowing up in their faces, expands the Democratic majority to five seats over just two Republicans. And because voters rejected an amendment that would have effectively gerrymandered the judicial branch by letting the GOP-gerrymandered legislature assume Cooper’s authority to fill judicial vacancies, Republicans can’t use their unconstitutionally gerrymandered supermajorities to pack the state Supreme Court in a December lame-duck legislative session and return it to a Republican majority like they had planned.
Now that Earls, a civil rights lawyer who has fought and won cases against out-of-control North Carolina Republicans on gerrymandering and voting rights, will soon sit on the bench, the end of this decade’s GOP stranglehold on state government may finally be in sight. That’s because Earls and her fellow Democratic justices could use North Carolina's state constitutional guarantee of free and equal elections to deem gerrymandering and voter suppression unconstitutional, following the lead of Pennsylvania's Democratic Supreme Court. And because the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to let such rulings stand due to federalism, North Carolina elections could soon become much freer and fairer.