All 12 candidates in this year's state judicial races has signaled a willingness to abide by public-financing rules in their campaigns. North Carolina's 2002 Judicial Campaign Reform Act enables candidates for the state Court of Appeals or Supreme Court to opt for what are commonly known as "voter-owned elections," partly funded by a $3 checkoff on state tax returns.
And with the April 15 tax-filing deadline looming, Weaverville resident Kathleen Balogh, president of the N.C. League of Women Voters, is encouraging individual taxpayers to do their bit. "Please look for this checkoff box on your income tax return — it will not come out of your tax refund — and please put your check in that box!" she urges. (The $3 is taken directly from taxes already being paid.)
Public funding kicks in for those judicial participants who make it past the May 4 primary — provided they meet state guidelines. To qualify, candidates must raise about $40,000 in small donations ($10 to $500) from a minimum of 350 registered voters and agree to strict fundraising and spending limits. In exchange, they receive public grants of $164,400 (for Court of Appeals races) or $240,100 (for Supreme Court contests).
The reform program also pays for the 2010 Primary Voter Guide, a pamphlet the State Board of Elections mailed to N.C. residents recently. Chock full of information, it provides profiles of the candidates for the state's top courts to encourage the public to cast votes in those races. (If you tossed yours, you can download it at www.sboe.state.nc.us/content.aspx?id=29.)
For more on the 2010 judicial primary races, see our Voter's Guide in the April 21 Xpress.