Local & State
|Activists sue NC lawmakers over constitutional amendment language|
|NAACP, environmentalists take on Berger, Moore|
|Published Monday, August 6, 2018 2:38 pm|
Environmentalists and the North Carolina NAACP are suing the state to keep four constitutional amendment initiatives off the November ballot.
Clean Air Carolina and the NAACP, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center and Forward Justice, will file suit today against House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger, and the State Board of Elections in Wake County Superior Court. The plaintiffs seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the ballot proposals from being finalized on Aug. 8. A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 7 at 10 a.m.
“The supermajority’s proposed amendments to the North Carolina constitution represent one of the greatest threats to our state’s democratic institutions since the Civil War,” NAACP President Rev. T. Anthony Spearman said in a statement. “Misleading voters to seize power and deny access to the ballot through discriminatory photo voter ID is not only a dangerous threat to our state’s future, it is also illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court limited the powers of this unconstitutional, gerrymandered legislature, and so the legislature must be stopped from carrying out this extraordinary attack.”
The suit challenges lawmakers’ efforts to place amendments on the ballot threaten voting rights and restructure government by usurping powers intended for the executive branch. Clean Air Carolina is represented by Southern Environmental Law Center; civil rights attorney Irv Joyner of Forward Justice is representing the NAACP.
In addition to the activists’ lawsuit, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has also pledged to take the Republican-led General Assembly to court over the amendments’ language, which critics say is misleading or confusing to voters.
“Partisan Democratic activists, including Gov. Roy Cooper, waited five weeks to file these absurd lawsuits which assume that voters aren’t smart enough to understand the amendments being placed before them,” Berger spokesman Bill D'Elia said. “In doing so they’ve created an ‘emergency’ of their own making, and have taken the shameful step of attempting to get an activist judge to take away the right of North Carolinians to amend their own constitution. Gov. Cooper should stay out of a process that he has no Constitutional right to be a part of and let the people decide.”
“This legislature has carried out extraordinary attacks to strip fundamental clean air and clean water protections that North Carolinians have been assured of for decades, breaking with our state’s long history of bipartisan support for environmental safeguards,” said Derb Carter, director of SELC’s North Carolina office. “At the moment we are poised to re-establish fair representation that will accurately reflect voters on environmental issues, they have attempted a desperate and unlawful power grab.”
The suit will challenge proposed amendments relating to judicial vacancies, state boards and commissions, voter ID requirements, and income tax rates. If ratified, the proposed amendments would:
• Alter the separation of powers clause of the constitution to shift the governor’s right to appoint and determine the responsibilities and terms of office for all executive boards and commissions to the legislature;
• Shift power to fill judicial vacancies between elections from the governor to the legislature;
• Limit future lawmakers’ power to set state income tax rates higher than 7 percent; and
• Require voters to present as-yet unspecified photo identification before casting a ballot, which critics say will disenfranchise the low-income, people of color, elderly, women, and college students.
“This is a critical moment for North Carolina’s future,” said June Blotnick, executive director of Clean Air Carolina. “If the legislature is successful in its power grab it will have dire consequences for citizens in the voting booth, for our communities and the air we breathe, and for our basic democratic institutions.”
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