Want to vote for president? And how about those judges . . .

If you don’t read more than one sentence of this news piece, then understand 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. In addition, 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, those selections include Soil and Water District Supervisor as well 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 the ballot concerning the water system sale or lease.

Judicial races on the Buncombe County ballot include one N.C. Supreme Court justice and three N.C. Court of Appeals judges. Information on judicial candidates was mailed to all households by the N.C. Board of Elections recently, and is available online here: 2012 General Election Voter Guide. Judicial races are nonpartisan, so the information is presented without party affiliation. Local judicial races are not included in the guide, but the two open Buncombe County District Court (District 28) positions on the ballot 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. Candidates for these three positions are eligible for allocations from the Voter-Owned-Elections Fund, comprised primarily of 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, as well as providing campaign funds to state judicial candidates who voluntarily elect to use public financing. Such candidates are required to first demonstrate a level of public support by attracting quailfying funds (donations between $10 and $500) from at least 350 registered N.C. voters.

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

One more thing: Early voting starts Thursday, Oct. 18, and you should expect a two-sided ballot, so don’t miss half the fun.

by Nelda Holder, contributing editor

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