When Buncombe County residents step into the voting booth, the ballot they confront may contain a few surprises. While the bulk of the attention tends to focus on a relatively few high-profile contests, there are also many nonpartisan races awaiting your vote (see box). And although the actual ballot varies by location (not everyone, for example, will see the county school-board races on their voting sheets), all the nonpartisan races appear on side two of the ballot. Fortunately, the more visible Board of Commissioners races are also on side two, which should help most voters find their way there so they can cast all the votes they’re entitled to.
As the ballot explains, however, voting a straight ticket does not include either the presidential race or any of the nonpartisan races. These all require individual votes.
Nonpartisan races include one Supreme Court associate justice position, six Court of Appeals judgeships and two District Court judgeships.
In North Carolina, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court make up the justice system’s Appellate Division. The seven-member Supreme Court (a chief justice and six associate justices) sit as a panel in Raleigh to consider “errors in legal procedures or in judicial interpretation of the law,” according to the court system’s Web site (www.nccourts.org). The Court of Appeals, the state’s only intermediate appellate court, has 15 judges who sit in rotating panels of three to decide questions of law in cases ranging from parking tickets to murders. The judges serve eight-year terms.
District Courts, located in each county seat, handle various civil, criminal, juvenile and magistrate trial duties. (Felony criminal cases and large civil cases are heard in Superior Court, none of whose judges are up for election this year.) District judges serve four-year terms.
Other nonpartisan contests include the Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor. These districts hark back to the Dust Bowl era, and their mission is to carry out soil-and-water conservation plans “that local people want and need,” according to the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources Web site (www.enr.state.nc.us/dswc).
For Buncombe County voters living outside the Asheville City Schools district, the nonpartisan section also includes several races for the county Board of Education: the at-large, North Buncombe, Owen, Roberson districts.
Below is the full list of candidates in nonpartisan races. In each race, voters are to choose one name only. Sample ballots are available from the Buncombe County Board of Elections (189 College St. in Asheville, or online at www.buncombecounty.org/governing/depts/election).
— Nelda Holder