Vote against the six Constitutional amendments
*Editor’s note: The amendments have been numbered according to the order they appear on a sample ballot. Please note that the amendments will not be numbered on the ballot. I agree with the author, Mayor Nancy Vaughan, more than 80 North Carolina elected officials and several other media outlets in the state (including The Winston-Salem Journal and The Greensboro News & Record) that urge voters to vote against all six proposed amendments. If the North Carolina General Assembly really cared about voters, the wording on these proposed amendments would not be intentionally vague. After attending a ballot primer session on Oct. 1 hosted at FEARLESS in Winston-Salem by Democracy North Carolina, it sounds to me like the North Carolina General Assembly is nervous about the potential outcome of the election, and is trying to secure a blank check from uninformed voters. I usually do not like to tell others how to vote, but these amendments could end up costing taxpayers more money than any of them are worth and could be dangerous in the long run. I urge undecided voters to do some more research on these amendments before heading to the polls. Please read more about the nonpartisan organizations such as Democracy North Carolina, North Carolina Common Cause and Stronger NC that are encouraging voters to “nix all six.”
Voters are being asked to vote on six amendments to the state constitution, all of which are vaguely-written attempts at making permanent and sweeping changes to North Carolina’s most important legal document. Even if a chorus of bipartisan voices were not calling this a naked power grab, the speed, and secrecy with which they were written and shoved on the ballot deserves rejection and rebuke, and I’d say that even if I agreed in principle with every single one.
1. Constitutional amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.
I’ve fished all my life, hunted as a teenager, and enjoy eating game shot by hunter friends. I’d vote for this amendment if hunting and fishing rights were in danger, but they’re not. Like the other amendments, this pandering, manipulative and suspiciously vague legislation deserves to be thrown back at those who drafted it the way an angler tosses an inedible chubsucker back into a pond.
2. Constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime; to establish certain absolute basic rights for victims; and to ensure the enforcement of these rights.
As someone who’s been a victim of violent crime, including an assault with a tire iron and an attempted home invasion, I might well support this if it wasn’t a terse and vaguely worded amendment that offers few details and was rushed onto the ballot. To put it bluntly, I don’t trust the General Assembly to look out for anyone’s interests but their own, and I’m not about to buy a pig in a poke from them. If some version of “Marsy’s Law,” as variants of the California Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008 have come to be known, is going to be enacted in North Carolina, let’s do it with transparency and proper deliberation, not as part of a tacked-on duplicitous rush job like this.
3. Reduce the income tax rate in North Carolina to a maximum allowable rate of seven percent (7%).
I don’t like paying taxes any more than you do, and North Carolina’s state income tax is the one where, year after year, I always owe rather than getting a refund. But inflexible, one-size-fits-all legislation is never a good idea. Considering North Carolina’s deplorable lack of commitment to funding teachers and public education, not to mention the natural disasters it’s recently suffered, this draconian measure, which wouldn’t actually reduce what any of us are currently paying (the current rate is a flat 5.499 percent), is dangerously short-sighted.
4. Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.
In 2016, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down key portions of North Carolina’s strict 2013 voting law, unanimously concluding it was racially discriminatory. The court blocked a requirement that voters show photo identification to vote and restored same-day voter registration, a week of early voting, pre-registration for teenagers, and out-of-precinct voting. This amendment is a naked attempt to get around that. It’s also, in the form it’s being presented to voters, suspiciously vague, with no indication of what types of IDs will be approved. Lawmakers would decide what kinds of identification are valid only once the ballot measure passes. This is another “just trust us” ploy, and perhaps the shadiest one of all, from legislators who have done nothing to earn that trust.
5. Judicial Vacancies amendment.
A year ago, I’d have laughed if you told me I’d be quoting both Pat McCrory and the Koch-founded conservative/libertarian Americans for Prosperity. But I agree with the former Republican governor’s charge that this is a blatant power grab and with AFP director Chris McCoy, who said the amendment “does open the door to special favors from special interests or cronyism.” It would give legislators new powers to dictate which judges the governor must appoint, and allow them to serve for up to four years without any input from voters. Unsurprisingly, it’s opposed by all five living former Republican and Democratic governors.
6. Constitutional amendment to establish an eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement in the Constitution to administer ethics and elections law.
What this wording doesn’t tell you is that the amendment is actually aimed at eliminating the Governor’s power to appoint a ninth unaffiliated board member. Limiting the Board of Elections to four Democrats and four Republicans creates the possibility (I’d argue, likelihood) of deadlock, thus resulting in dismissals of cases challenging election results or charging voting violations. This is the other amendment that Pat McCrory called “a blatant power grab from the executive branch” and he’s right.
Ian McDowell is the author of two published novels, numerous anthologized short stories, and a whole lot of nonfiction and journalism, some of which he’s proud of and none of which he’s ashamed of.