A panel of three Superior Court judges on Wednesday ordered state elections officials to hold off printing ballots for the November election until the courts could weigh in on challenges brought by Gov. Roy Cooper to two proposed constitutional amendments. Cooper charges that amendments giving lawmakers the power to fill vacant judgeships between elections and appoint people to dozens of state boards and commissions are worded so poorly on the ballot that they will mislead voters as to their impact. “A ballot question that does not fairly and accurately present [what it does] amounts to a deceit on the people of North Carolina, and it corrodes and, I suggest, it corrupts their right to amend their constitution,” said John Wester, an attorney for Cooper. “This cannot become the law of our state.” The two proposals use “feel-good phrasing” to encourage voters to approve them, Wester said, when state law requires that amendment language be fair and non-discriminatory.
The judicial vacancies amendment, for example, calls for “a nonpartisan, merit-based system that relies on professional qualifications instead of political influence.” But Adam Doerr, an attorney for Cooper, noted that lawmakers would have the power to appoint anyone they want to the bench and that the only qualifications the state requires for someone to be a judge are that they are a licensed attorney under the age of 72.
“What [the amendment} is actually doing is letting the General Assembly exercise political influence over judicial selection that it currently lacks but would very much like to have,” Doerr said.
Similarly, the appointments amendment calls for “clarify[ing] the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches,” as if,