Ballot check

Take your pick: In a big change for Buncombe County, which voters will see on this year’s ballots, are the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners divided into three districts. For example, four candidates are vying for two District 3 (west Buncombe) seats on the board, pictured here at a recent League of Women Voters forum — (left to right) Republicans Joe Belcher and David King and Democrats Terry Van Duyn and Michelle Pace Wood. Photo by Max Cooper.

If you read only one sentence of this story, make it this: A “straight party” vote in the upcoming election does NOT record a vote for president. North Carolina is the only state in the nation where this is the case.

And that’s not all. Other ballot items that must be marked individually include state and local judicial races, all local nonpartisan races, and any issues or referenda. In Buncombe County, that includes the races for Soil and Water District supervisor and the Buncombe County Board of Education (North Buncombe, Owen and Roberson District residents may vote for one candidate in each of these three races; all county school-district residents may vote in the race for one at-large seat).

Only Asheville residents may participate in the referendum on selling or leasing the water system.

Judicial races on the Buncombe County ballot include one state Supreme Court justice and three N.C. Court of Appeals judges. The State Board of Elections mailed information on judicial candidates to all households recently; it’s also available online in the 2012 General Election Voter Guide ( These races are nonpartisan, so candidates’ party affiliation isn’t indicated. The guide doesn’t cover local judicial races, but both District Court positions on the ballot for Buncombe County’s District 28 involve unopposed incumbents: Andrea Dray and Calvin Hill.

The voter guide also includes information on the candidates for the three publicly funded Council of State races (which are partisan): superintendent of public instruction, commissioner of insurance and state auditor. These candidates are eligible for allocations from the Voter-Owned Elections Fund, supported by voluntary donations and appropriations from the state’s general fund.

A different source, the North Carolina Public Campaign Fund, pays for the judicial voter guide and provides campaign funds to state judicial candidates who choose to use public financing. These candidates must first demonstrate a level of public support by attracting donations of $10 to $500 from at least 350 registered N.C. voters.

The judicial fund has been cited as a national model for keeping financial influence out of the judiciary, although court action cut into the legislation this year. Previously, participants running against opponents who didn’t choose public funding were given the option of receiving matching funds, if necessary, to level the playing field. A federal district court ruling in May struck down this provision, although the State Board of Elections had already notified candidates that the rescue option would not be available this election, based on other federal and Supreme Court rulings.

Early voting continues through Saturday, Nov. 3. Expect a two-sided ballot: Don’t miss half the fun.

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