State’s highest court to hear challenge of voter identity and tax cap changes – Carolina Journal

NC voters decided in 2018 that the state should require voter photo ID in future elections. They also decided to lower the ceiling on state income tax. A case in the state’s Supreme Court will today determine whether judges can overrule those voters.

The case is called NAACP v. Moore. It is scheduled for oral argument today before the highest court in the state. The judges will render a decision at a later date.

The plaintiffs in the case want to reject the results of statewide votes on two constitutional amendments in 2018. One of them was mandatory. The other lowered an existing constitutional cap on state income tax rates from 10% to 7%. Both obtained clear majority support among voters.

But opponents argue that voters should never have had the opportunity to address either amendment. Critics say that a gerrymandered General Assembly did not have the right to put these amendments on the ballot.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins accepted the critics’ argument in February 2019, three months after voters approved the amendments. But the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed course, ruling 2-1 in September 2020 that the General Assembly retained the power to vote on constitutional amendments, regardless of any court decisions related to electoral maps.

The two contested amendments were part of a set of six proposed changes to the North Carolina Constitution in the 2018 poll. Voters also approved measures to add more victims’ rights to the Constitution and enshrine victims. state hunting and fishing rights. The same voters rejected amendments to change the state’s electoral administration and the judicial appointment process.

The NAACP lawsuit does not challenge any of the other two amendments that won voter approval. This is despite the fact that the same General Assembly placed these amendments on the same ballot.

Some 2,094,924 people voted to lower the state of North Carolina’s constitutional cap on income taxes. With 57% support in the statewide referendum, supporters of the tax cap beat opponents by more than 537,000 votes.

The voter identification vote was closer. But the 2,049,121 “yes” votes represented 55% of the total. Advocates of voter ID beat critics by more than 405,000 votes.

An election without a presidential race, to the post of governor or to the US Senate still attracted more than 3.7 million people, or about 53% of all voters registered in the NC.

The two contested amendments received more “yes” votes than any other candidate in the 2018 election. The largest individual voter, Democratic Court of Appeal Judge John Arrowood, was re-elected with 1,855,728 votes. It was 193,393 votes less than the voter card.

One of the Supreme Court justices hearing NAACP v. Moore today, Anita Earls, won her seat in 2018 with less than 50% of the vote in a three-way race. His 1,812,751 votes fell 236,370 votes below voter ID support.

Now Earls and his colleagues will decide whether they support the plaintiffs’ arguments. The lawsuit argues that Republicans leading the General Assembly in 2018 had “usurped” power through rigged electoral cards.

This is an argument that fell flat last year before the Court of Appeal.

“We do not agree that our ‘General Assembly has lost its claim to popular sovereignty,'” Judge Chris Dillon wrote in the court’s main opinion.

“If there was a loss of popular sovereignty by our General Assembly, then all laws passed by this body would be subject to attack, creating chaos and confusion,” Dillon wrote. “One could argue that our state’s current constitution, adopted in 1971, was void, as it had been proposed by a General Assembly that had only one African-American member due to the impact of gerrymandering and measures suppression of voters. “

Dillon berated Collins, the trial judge, for attempting to “blue pencil” the powers of the legislature. Collins appeared to choose which of the General Assembly actions to label legitimate or illegitimate.

“[I]It might make more sense for us to put a blue pencil on the power of our General Assembly to pass ordinary bills, ”Dillon explained. “The risk of a bill becoming law is much greater, as these can become law without anyone else’s consent, through a veto. A bill proposing an amendment, however, cannot become law without the approval of the people, the source of popular sovereignty.

Writing separately from Dillon, Judge Donna Stroud criticized the NAACP’s claim that Republican lawmakers wielded illegitimate authority. Stroud noted that the country’s highest court chose not to make such a ruling.

In a redistribution case, the United States Supreme Court which ruled against NC lawmakers “refused to find that members of the General Assembly elected in unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts are usurpers.” Instead, the country’s highest court “ordered the exact same General Assembly” to create new electoral maps, “without limiting the power of action of the General Assembly.”

Stroud echoed Dillon’s emphasis on the important role of voters in 2018. “Since passing a constitutional amendment requires a majority of voters in North Carolina in an election across the board state unaffected by illegal districts, the plaintiff’s argument is in fact weaker for a constitutional amendment than for other legislation, ”she wrote.

Both Dillon and Stroud rejected the NAACP’s arguments, but Judge Reuben Young dissented. Dillon and Stroud are Republicans, Young a Democrat.

“If an illegally formed legislature could indeed amend the Constitution, it could do so to give itself the veneer of legitimacy,” Young wrote. “He could seek, by proposing amendments for public approval, to ratify and make legal his own illegal existence. Such an act would necessarily be odious to all the principles of democracy. “

NAACP v. Moore is the first case on the Supreme Court’s docket this morning. There is no set timeframe for a decision in the case.

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