by Brian O’Leary and Vennie Bobis

There are six proposed amendments to the  Constitution of the State of North Carolina that will be on the ballot during the election this November 6th.

Unlike some other states, North Carolina does not frequently amend its constitution. The last amendments were the 2012 amendment to ban gay marriage, which was later overturned in federal court, and the 2014 amendment to let criminal defendants waive their right to a jury trial. And it’s even rarer for North Carolina voters to see so many amendment proposals in a single year.

All six potential changes were written by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, and the N.C. Republican Party is encouraging people to approve all six. Meanwhile, the N.C. Democratic Party is encouraging people to vote against all six.

None of the amendments are necessary and many are actually dangerous, as they are not clearly defined. Opponents say the rights addressed among the amendments are already protected, and argue that the amendments are on the ballot for political reasons — to increase turnout among conservative voters in a year when Democrats are largely expected to make great gains.

An Elon University Poll in early September found that registered voters don’t know much about the amendments, and in some cases people think the amendments would have the opposite effect of what they purport to promise. Although 89% said they plan to vote in November, just 56% knew there will be amendments on the ballot —and only 8% said they’ve heard a lot about what the amendments would do.

The list below is meant to detail what, exactly, these amendments will cause if passed, as their titles are intentionally vague and misleading.

Voters go to the polls on Nov. 6. Early voting begins on Oct. 17.

 

Amendment 1: HUNTING AND FISHING AMENDMENT

HOW IT APPEARS ON THE BALLOT:

“Constitutional amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.”

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS/DOES:

  • Benefits the corporate gun lobby.
  • Recreates protections that already exist, with no known threats.
  • Deceives voters into thinking their rights are under attack for the sole purpose of drawing certain voters to the polls. (People are very free to hunt and fish in NC today)
  • This amendment may also have unintended consequences that can harm our state’s wildlife by overruling sensible restrictions on trapping, poisoning and other cruel practices deemed “traditional.”

 

Amendment 2: VICTIMS’ RIGHTS AMENDMENT

HOW IT APPEARS ON THE BALLOT:

“Constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime; to establish certain absolute basic rights for victims; and to ensure the enforcement of these rights.”

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS/DOES:

  • There is already victim-right protection in the NC Constitution.
  • As proposed this amendment would delay justice for everyone.
  • Costs tens of millions of dollars per year to implement with no details on where that money will come from.
  • We need North Carolina solutions. Not a California billionaire’s plan for America as is modeled in this amendment.
  • This amendment is based on the national campaign for “Marsy’s Law”, which was first ratified in California in 2008 under Proposition 9. Similar laws have been passed in Illinois, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. These are financially backed by California billionaire Henry Nichols, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp.

 

Amendment 3: INCOME TAX CAP AMENDMENT

HOW IT APPEARS ON THE BALLOT:

“Constitutional amendment to reduce the income tax rate in North Carolina to a maximum allowable rate of seven percent (7%).”

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS/DOES:

  • Makes the maximum possible state income tax rate 7%, lowering the cap from 10%. This would not change anyone’s current tax bill, since the North Carolina personal income tax rate is now 5.499%.
  • Provides a permanent tax shift to help the rich at the expense of everyone else.
  • Forces lawmakers to increase other taxes, such as property and sales taxes which disproportionately burden working families.
  • Hurts our ability to fund vital public needs like roads and schools.
  • Reducing the tax cap only ties the hands of future legislatures to respond to natural disasters and unanticipated crisis.

 

Amendment 4: VOTER PHOTO ID RESTRICTION AMENDMENT

HOW IT APPEARS ON THE BALLOT:

“Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.”

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS/DOES:

  • Creates a voter ID requirement for in-person voting. The legislature will write the details if the amendment passes.
  • Hands legislators a “blank check” to choose what photo IDs are acceptable. The last ID law didn’t include common forms of ID like student or employee IDs, and was thrown out by the courts for discriminating with “surgical precision” against black voters.
  • This amendment could disenfranchise 300,000 voters, including people with disabilities, elderly citizens, college students and those who do not drive.
  • Creates a permanent voting restriction that could cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, at the expense of other needs.
  • Makes our state an extreme outlier. Only Mississippi has a strict photo ID mandate in its constitution. This amendment is worse.

 

Amendment 5: JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS AMENDMENTS

HOW IT APPEARS ON THE BALLOT:

“Constitutional amendment to change the process for filling judicial vacancies that occur between judicial elections from a process in which the Governor has sole appointment power to a process in which the people of the State nominate individuals to fill vacancies by way of a commission comprised of appointees made by the judicial, executive, and legislative branches charged with making recommendations to the legislature as to which nominees are deemed qualified; then the legislature will recommend at least two nominees to the Governor via legislative action not subject to gubernatorial veto; and the Governor will appoint judges from among these nominees.”

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS/DOES:

  • Changes the State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement from nine members to eight members, leaving four members from each party but removing the ninth seat that is now reserved for an unaffiliated person.
  • The amendment would also take away the governor’s power to choose members of the elections board, and give that power to the legislature.
  • Allows legislators to pick judges who would rubber stamp their agenda, including discriminatory voting restrictions and voting maps.
  • Opens the door for legislators to add judicial seats or try to impeach judges so they can fill “vacancies” with their friends.
  • Brings us one step closer to legislative threats to altogether end voters’ ability to elect judges.
  • If this amendment passes, a special legislative session could add two more justices, appointed by legislature.
  • This legislative power grab is opposed by all five former Republican and Democratic governors.

Amendment 6: ELECTIONS AND ETHICS AMENDMENT

 HOW IT APPEARS ON THE BALLOT:

“Constitutional amendment to establish an eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement in the Constitution to administer ethics and elections law.”

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS/DOES:

  • Would lead to an eight-member state elections board, meaning
  • partisan gridlock and less ballot access for voters.
  • North Carolinians already have a nine-member, bipartisan state elections board, with one unaffiliated member, four Democrats, and four Republicans.
  • Allows legislators to change the constitution to get their way. A prior version of the same law was rejected by the N.C. Supreme Court.
  • If passed, we can expect cuts to early voting, restrictions on voter registration, and minimal enforcement of ethics laws
  • As in Amendment 5, this legislative power grab is opposed by all five former Republican and Democratic governors.

 

Want to read more? We offer a few links below if you would like to read more commentary on how/why or what these amendments could mean for North Carolina.

  • ACLU’s coverage of Victim’s Rights Amendment click here.
  • League of Women Voters position on NC Constitutional Amendments click here.
  • Additional information about the amendments provided by Democracy NC click here.
  • BythePeopleNC takes an even strong stance against all 6 amendments: click here.

Take a look at these PDF files to see how the amendments will appear on your ballot. Remember….the language is vague…it’s a good idea to know what you’ll see in the voting booth.Amendment text on ballot Note this PDF is provided by Democracy NC.

 

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