In addition to voting for candidates on November 4, North Carolina voters will be able to vote in a referendum for an amendment to the state’s constitution. This amendment would allow a defendant to waive his or her right to a trial by jury in non-death penalty cases if the defendant puts this request in writing and it is approved by the presiding judge. After waiving the trial by jury, the defendant would be tried by a judge in the North Carolina Superior Court system. The specifics of these procedures would be subject to further clarifications to be made by the General Assembly in the future.
Currently, 49 other states have similar provisions in their state constitutions, and supporters of this amendment claim that it would allow defendants to have a speedy trial, because jury trials often last for days, and that it would allow defendants the chance to have a professionally impartial judge in cases where the jury might be biased. Opponents claim that waiving a jury trial would streamline decisions without due process and that the right to a trial by jury is too fundamental to be waived.