In addition to the federal, state and local races that will be featured on the 2018 general election ballot, North Carolina voters will also be tasked with deciding the fate of six proposed amendments to the state constitution. The proposed amendments were approved by the state’s GOP-dominated legislature over the summer and now need a simple majority vote on Tuesday in order to go into effect.
The first amendment proposal that will appear on voters’ ballots next week is aimed at protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife, establishing public hunting and fishing as a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.
Next on the list is an amendment that would strengthen protections for victims of crime, establishing certain absolute basic rights for victims and ensuring the enforcement of those rights. If adopted, the state constitution would guarantee victims the right to the reasonable, accurate and timely notice of a proceeding, the right to be present at any proceeding and the right to reasonably confer with the prosecutor, among a few other rights. Currently, these rights are only afforded to victims of “serious” crimes including major felonies and certain domestic violence cases.
While the victims’ rights proposal will likely receive near unanimous approval, the four remaining amendments have been far more divisive, including one that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls. The forms of identification deemed acceptable would be decided at the discretion of the legislature at a later date, if the amendment is approved by voters.
Republican House Speaker Tim Moore has filed seven bills on the matter since his election in 2002, but his most recent attempt in 2013 was shot down by a panel of federal judges in 2016 who wrote that the photo identification requirement targeted African Americans with “almost surgical precision.” Currently, there are 34 other states that require some form of voter identification and North Carolina is the only state in the southeast that does not do so.
Another proposed amendment that has drawn the ire of some would cap the maximum state income tax at 7 percent, rather than the current cap of 10 percent. The proposed amendment does not mention any exceptions, which means that, in times of disaster or recession, the state may have to resort to cutting core services, raising sales taxes or increased borrowing.
The two remaining constitutional amendments that will be included on next week’s ballot would take power from the governor and put it in the hands of the legislature, a move that has received staunch criticism from each of the state’s living former governors, including the ones who represented the Republican Party.
The first of those proposed amendments would limit the governor’s autonomous power to fill judicial vacancies that occur between election cycles. If adopted, the amendment would establish a commission to nominate individuals to fill those judicial vacancies and then the legislature would select two of those nominees for the governor to choose from. Additionally, this proposed amendment would make it so that appointed judges, who currently serve only until the next election, will serve up to four year before voters could elect or replace them.
The final proposed amendment would strip the governor of their power to appoint members of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, currently appoints all nine members, but the amendment would reduce the membership to eight -- four Democrats and four Republicans -- all of whom would be nominated by the House speaker and Senate leader.
More information on each of the six proposed amendments to the state constitution can be found by visiting www.lincolncounty.org and selecting “elections” under the “government” tab.