Republicans pick up two seats on North Carolina Supreme Court

The results of the 2020 election affected the partisan composition of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Going into the election, Democrats had a 6-1 majority on the court. Republicans held one seat and picked up two net seats, giving Democrats a 4-3 majority.

Paul Martin Newby (R) defeated Cheri Beasley (D) in the partisan November 3 election for the chief justice seat. Tamara Barringer (R) defeated incumbent Mark Davis (D) for Seat 4 while Phil Berger Jr. (R) defeated Lucy Inman (D) for Seat 2, which was left open by Newby.

The race for the chief justice seat was especially competitive. On December 15, 2020, a hand-to-eye recount in the race for chief justice showed Newby defeated Beasley by 401 votes. Beasley had previously conceded the race on December 12.

North Carolina election law allowed statewide candidates to request a recount if 10,000 votes or 0.5% of the total votes cast (whichever was less) separated them from an election winner. On November 17, Beasley’s campaign officially requested a statewide machine recount. The statewide machine recount was completed on December 2, with Newby maintaining his lead. Following the release of results, Beasley’s campaign requested a hand-to-eye recount to be conducted in randomly selected precincts.

2022 could be another competitive year in the North Carolina Supreme Court. The seats held by justices Robin Hudson (D) and Sam Ervin (D) will be up for election on November 8, 2022, meaning Republicans could gain control of the court or Democrats could hold their majority.

Starting with the 2018 election, the seven justices on the North Carolina Supreme Court began to be chosen by partisan election. This became law in December 2016. Before that, the election of appellate judges had been nonpartisan since 2004. In the event of a midterm vacancy, the outgoing judge is replaced via assisted appointment. With the help of a judicial nominating commission, the governor appoints a successor to serve until the next general election occurring more than 60 days after the vacancy occurred. A judge is then elected.

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