In November, North Carolina voters will have an opportunity to approve six constitutional amendments proposed by the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature. These amendments range from silly to atrocious, and a majority are designed to prevent the state’s Supreme Court and Democratic governor from protecting voting rights. But voters may have little idea what any of the amendments do, because Republicans have hatched a plan to give themselves the power to write the ballot language without any input from Democrats. The North Carolina GOP decided to alter the state constitution for a few reasons. First, they hoped to drive up Republican turnout by tossing some red meat to the base. Second, they want to stop Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper from expanding access to voting rights by stripping him of his constitutional authority to oversee state elections. Third, and relatedly, they want to prevent the left-leaning state Supreme Court, and the rest of the judiciary, from striking down GOP-sponsored voter suppression laws. (A federal appeals court struck down Republicans’ previous voter ID law, ruling that it appeared to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”)
To achieve these goals, Republicans put forward two proposed amendments that target the franchise. The first compels voters to show ID before casting a ballot but does not explain what kinds of ID are necessary and what exceptions might apply. (Legislative Republicans will fill in those details if voters approve the amendment.) The second would prohibit the governor from appointing commissioners to the powerful state elections board, instead giving that task to legislative leaders. It would also require the board to be made up of four Democrats and four Republicans. Currently, the governor is constitutionally empowered to appoint a majority of commissioners from his own party. The amendment, then, would create a perpetually deadlocked election board with no power to expand suffrage under Democratic governors.
A third amendment would give the Legislature authority to whittle down the list of nominees whom the governor could appoint when a judicial vacancy arises. (Republicans have already shrunk the size of the state Court of Appeals to prevent Cooper from filling several vacancies.) A fourth caps the state income tax at 7 percent. (It’s already below 6 percent and scheduled to continue falling.) A fifth creates a constitutional right “to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.” And a sixth provides rights to crime victims and their families.