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Wake County court issues injuction in constitutional amendment case
Two proposals blocked; appeals filed for two others
Published Wednesday, August 22, 2018 2:03 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

A pair of North Carolina ballot initiatives that would leave filling judicial and state board vacancies to lawmakers is stalled in court.

The Wake County Superior Court issued an injunction Tuesday to stop two constitutional amendments from appearing on the November ballot while denying a petition to halt initiatives relating to voter ID requirements and income tax rates. The Southern Environmental Law Center, North Carolina NAACP, Clean Air Carolina, and Forward Justice filed the complaint and appealed Wednesday to the state Supreme Court to review the voter ID and state income taxes proposals. The plaintiffs are challenging the legislature’s authority to pass the amendments, which the activist groups allege will disenfranchise people of color and limit future state funding.  

“While we are pleased this court has prohibited the North Carolina legislature’s plans to drastically restructure our state government, we are disappointed that the decision didn’t stop their efforts to erect new barriers to voting, which could ultimately disenfranchise thousands of North Carolinians, particularly people of color,” N.C. NAACP President Rev. T. Anthony Spearman said in a statement. “This effort by the legislature comes straight out of the playbook from our state’s shameful past of institutional racism, and we must stop it in its tracks.”

The suit challenges four proposed amendments relating to judicial vacancies, state boards and commissions, voter ID requirements, and income tax rates.

If ratified, the Republican-backed amendments would:

• Shift from the governor to the legislature all authority regarding appointments, responsibilities and terms of office for executive boards and commissions;

• Strip the governor of power to fill judicial vacancies between elections and move it to the legislature;

• Limit future lawmakers’ ability to set state income tax rates higher than 7 percent, which plaintiffs say could limit funding for anti-poverty, civil rights, and environmental protection programs; and

• Require voters who cast ballots in person to present as yet unspecified photo identification, which activists say targets low-income voters, people of color, women, and college students.

“The democratic power of the people cannot be stolen through gerrymandered districts and misleading ballot language as legislative leaders are attempting to do,” said Kym Hunter, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, which represents the citizen groups before the court. “We will be appealing [the] decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court and will continue fighting to ensure all North Carolinians are properly represented.”

Said Clean Air Carolina Executive Director June Blotnick: “We are grateful for the court’s decision on two of the amendments but frustrated with their failure to see the injustice in the legislature’s efforts to limit voting rights and play politics with the state’s budget and vigorously contest our interest in these matters. The legislature’s unprecedented power grab will silence the voice of voters who are demanding action on a variety of environmental issues. We will continue to press forward on this issue until North Carolinians can rest assured that their state legislature will honor their need for clean air and water.”


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