RALEIGH — A large majority of North Carolina voters support the state’s public campaign financing program for judicial candidates, according to a new poll commissioned by the nonpartisan N.C. Center for Voter Education.
The survey finds that 68 percent of state voters favor the judicial public financing program, with just 23 opposed. Voters across the political spectrum support judicial public financing, including 67 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of unaffiliated voters.
The evidence of voter support for judicial public financing comes as state lawmakers consider proposals to end the program.
“North Carolina’s innovative public financing program has been a proven success in reducing special interest influence and protecting the integrity of our courts,” said Brent Laurenz, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education. “This latest poll shows strong bipartisan support for continuing the judicial public financing program.”
Since 2004, candidates for the N.C. Supreme Court and N.C. Court of Appeals have been able to voluntarily opt into the judicial public financing program if they agree to strict fundraising and spending limits.
Funding for the judicial public financing program comes through a voluntary $3 check-off option on the state income tax form. Marking “yes” does not raise the amount of taxes paid or decrease a person’s refund. Additional funds for the program come through a $50 surcharge paid by attorneys.
In the eight years and five election cycles since it was implemented, 80 percent of candidates for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have participated in the program, including all eight candidates in 2012.
The statewide poll of 610 North Carolina voters was conducted Apr. 24-28 by SurveyUSA and has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
Founded in 1999, the Raleigh-based N.C. Center for Voter Education is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to helping all citizens fully participate in democracy.
Full poll results, including crosstabs, are available at http://ncvotered.com/downloads/polling/2013/SurveyUSA_judicial.pdf.
Q. North Carolina judges are elected. Current state law gives statewide candidates for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals the option of accepting public campaign funding, if they agree to spending limits and refuse money from political action committees and special interest groups. The law also makes elections for judges nonpartisan, which means there is no party affiliation listed on the ballot next to the candidates’ names, and provides nonpartisan voter guides which explain the candidates’ qualifications. In general, do you strongly support this state law on judicial elections? Somewhat support it? Somewhat oppose it? Or strongly oppose it?
TOTAL SUPPORT: 68%
TOTAL OPPOSE: 23%
Strongly Support: 30%
Somewhat Support: 38%
Somewhat Oppose: 15%
Strongly Oppose: 8%
Not Sure: 9%
-Press release from the N.C. Center for Voter Education, shared May 3.