Gov. Roy Cooper waited until the proverbial eleventh hour Friday night to veto two pieces of legislation passed June 5 by the legislature affecting judicial elections in the state. Cooper called the legislation partisan and unnecessarily confusing but legislators have said that Cooper’s last minute, late night, vetoes are what is really partisan and confusing about the legislation.
Cooper’s vetoes came at 9:25 p.m. Friday, less than three hours until the legislation was set to become law without the governor’s signature.
The legislation Cooper vetoed was set to adjust a number of judicial districts and the other piece of legislation replaced partisan labels on all judicial races, required criminal background screening for key state and local election officials and also put in place rules for the upcoming judicial races for the November General Election.
With the legislation in limbo until the legislature takes up override votes, or deigns not to, the final word on judicial districts for the November elections are undefined leaving prospective candidates in a confusing place for filing, which opened Monday and will run until June 29.
Less than 45 minutes before Cooper issued his veto Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), believing the window where Cooper would veto the legislation had ended had passed, tweeted out that he was glad to see the bills become law but lamented that Cooper did not sign the pair of bills.
Later that night Lewis penned another tweet calling out Cooper for sending a staffer to the private home of the clerk to deliver the veto, which he said was absurd and that Cooper knew he would veto that legislation for the last 10 days and did not need to wait until that late, after the staff had gone home, to issue the veto.
Lewis also incorrectly stated, and retracted, an erroneous tweet that the staffer delivering the message to the clerk’s house woke a child at the home in the process of delivering the vetoes.
Cooper did not provide much context to go with his vetoes, and his veto messages offered no explanation as to the lateness of the hour and day in which he decided to veto the legislation.
Regarding SB 757 Cooper included two sentences saying, “The legislative attempts to rig the courts by reducing the people’s vote hurts justice. Piecemeal attempts to target judges create unnecessary confusion and show contempt for North Carolina’s judiciary.”
Of SB486 Cooper had two more sentences to offer in explanation of his decision to veto the legislation two and a half hours before the deadline saying, “Continued election meddling for partisan advantage weakens public confidence. Judges’ races should be free of partisan labels.”
Republicans are expected to attempt to override the vetoes next week as they are wrapping up the Short Session following overriding Cooper’s budget veto last week.
As long as Republicans in the House and Senate vote as a block the vetoes can be overridden.
The two most recent vetoes from Cooper mark his 15th and 16th while in office, 11 of which have been overridden so far.