This November, voters will decide if they want to protect North Carolina’s constitution or dramatically change it. Republican leaders hastily wrote and placed six amendments on the ballot with misleading language, hoping you won’t pay close attention to what these constitutional changes will do or why you are asked to vote on them.
None of these amendments are necessary, and some are outright dangerous. More disturbingly, voters are being asked to give a green light to the supermajority to fill in the blanks on how these amendments will actually work in November, before any new legislators are seated. Here’s a closer look.
Protect the Right to Hunt and Fish: Hunting and fishing rights are not in jeopardy and even legislators who voted for this bill agreed it is unnecessary. This amendment has unintended consequences that can harm our state’s wildlife by overruling sensible restrictions on trapping, poisoning and other cruel practices.
Strengthening Victim’s Rights: There is no question we all want to ensure victims are treated fairly and respectfully. But we don’t need this amendment, as victim-right protection is already in our Constitution. A California billionaire is pushing the so-called “Marsy’s Law and padding the pockets of N.C. lobbyists and legislators to push it. District attorneys are elected to represent victims and the state. What victims don’t need is a duplication of existing laws; what they need is more money for restitution and counseling. Rather than spend the estimated $20 million annually, to grow the bureaucracy, let’s make funds available for these other necessary services.
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Reduce Income Tax to 7 Percent Maximum: A quick read suggests people’s tax rates will fall if this amendment is passed, taking our state’s tax cap from 10 percent to 7 percent. Our current tax rate is below 5 percent. Voting for this amendment will not reduce anyone’s taxes. But restricting the amount of money the state can generate on a crisis like Hurricane Florence or a recession could be devastating and force local governments to raise property and sales taxes. Reducing the tax cap only ties the hands of future legislatures to respond to unanticipated crisis.
Require Photo ID to Vote: The real voting crisis in our country is not voter fraud, but hacking and the integrity of our voting system. This amendment does nothing to define what a valid photo ID will be. What if your driver’s license expires a week before the election? Would you be denied to right to vote? How many hours or days will voters have to stand in line to get a government issued photo ID? This amendment could disenfranchise 300,000 voters, including people with disabilities, elderly citizens, college students and those who do not drive.
Judicial Vacancy Sunshine Amendment: This amendment would give legislators new powers to dictate which judges the governor must appoint. These judges could serve for up to four years without any input from voters. What the supermajority is really scared of is that the voters will elect a justice to the N.C. Supreme Court whom they don’t like. 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.
Bipartisan Elections and Ethics Enforcement: This inaptly named amendment would give the legislature total control over the commission that carries out elections and also enforces ethics laws. If passed, we can expect cuts to early voting, restrictions on voter registration, and minimal enforcement of ethics laws. There will also be gridlock: the amendment calls for eight members – half Republican and half Democrat – and eliminates a role for an independent or third-party member.
Rather than passing these deceptive, vague amendments, voters should demand to know why aren’t they being given the chance to vote for proposals that would protect and expand democracy and improve our quality of life.
Why are we not voting on an amendment to establish an independent redistricting commission that will once and for all eliminate political gerrymandering? Why are legislative candidates being distracted from talking about real issues like health care, adequate funding for public education, creating better-paying jobs or guaranteeing clean water and air?
Once voters understand what they don’t understand, about these amendments, I hope they will see the deception and refuse to give the Republican leadership a blank check to further grab power. Vote against all six amendments.
State Rep. Marcia Morey represents House District 30 and is a former chief district court judge in Durham County.