Worthy investment

Published 4:32 am Wednesday, January 24, 2007

By Staff
With 1 million educational fliers at the ready, a collection of North Carolina groups is kicking off a statewide Say Yes tour to support a program aimed at improving judicial elections for the state’s highest courts. It’s a program worth promoting and a small step in the right direction.
The Tar Heel State is ahead of its neighbors in offering judicial candidates an alternative means of financing their campaigns, according to a press release from North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections.
The organization “ seeks to improve the vitality of democracy in North Carolina by enacting a voluntary public-financing program for state-level candidates who earn the public’s trust,” according to its Web site. The hope of the organization is that “a voter-owned, clean-elections program would encourage candidates to reject all special-interest donations and rely solely on voters for their support.”
OK, so that hope is not entirely realistic. But it’s admirable and it’s worth aiming for.
The judicial-elections program is one step toward meeting the goal of having election outcomes based more on sense than cents. The promoting coalition, which includes the League of Women Voters and Democracy North Carolina, is traveling across the state to tell taxpayers about a box on the state income-tax form.
Checking the box would allow the taxpayers to contribute $3 to the N.C. Public Campaign Fund. Checking the box does not increase the amount of taxes a person pays or reduce the amount of his or her refund. It simply earmarks taxes being paid anyway.
Transfers from taxpayers to the fund during 2006 totaled about $1.2 million. Attorneys also provide about $1 million to the program a year through a surcharge on their fees to the State Bar. Along with financing campains, the fund also paid for a nonpartisan voter guide, prepared by the State Board of Elections, profiling the courts’ candidates.
Such a fund is not a bad idea and it’s one that politicians in partisan elections ought to consider.
It’s one that’s worthy of support.