Drew Eastland ‘21
When students take to the polls this November, candidate seats will not be the only issues at stake. This midterm election, the North Carolina ballot features six state constitutional amendments: a 7% income tax cap, protections for victims of crime, the right to hunt and fish, the establishment of an ethics board, legislative judicial appointments, and photo ID voting laws.
The Democratic Party is publicly opposing all six amendments, while the Republican Party supports all six. Because the Republicans currently hold a majority in the state legislature, many of the amendments push their party agenda forward.
The amendment to judicial appointments focuses on shifting the executive power to the legislature. Democrats allege that these amendments are rooted in partisanship because the Republicans currently control the legislature and not the governorship.
“A lot of them are partisan by nature,” College Democrats President Kate Bock ‘19 said. “I think some of these constitutional amendments are an attempt to consolidate legislative power before that legislative power is threatened.”
Some groups on campus, such as College Libertarians, favor a shift of power from the executive to the legislative branch, but also note that this shift seems more partisan than textual.Traditionally, shifting power from the executive branch is viewed as more democratic as it moves power from an individual to a group; however, in this case the move is for political power.
“In principle, yeah I support it,” commented Co-president of College Libertarians Andy Hoyle ‘21. “I don’t think any of the partisan problems are going to be fixed until…North Carolina does something about its gerrymandering.”
The amendment would not change how judges first join the bench. Judges would still be voted into office by North Carolina citizens; however, in the event of a vacancy, the nomination process would be placed in the hands of the legislature, not the executive branch.
“It’s a little power grab there,” College Republicans Communication Director Alex Sizemore ‘20 remarked. “But it doesn’t affect elections as they are because right now we elect our judges and justices to the courts.”
The amendment to create voter ID laws has also created some partisan controversy. In 2013, North Carolina established a law that required a photo ID to vote. In 2016, the state’s Supreme Court declared this law unconstitutional. The debate is rearing its head again in 2018.
Republicans argue that voter ID laws would reduce voter fraud, while the Democrats contend that voter ID laws will limit minorities and affinity groups that do not have access to drivers’ licenses.
“I think this is probably the most important one because it will have disproportionate impacts on voter turnout from affinity groups, specifically African Americans,” explained Bock. “Statistics…show voter fraud is very low; the need for this is not necessarily legitimate.”
“You’d have to give everyone some type of identification,” added Co-president of College Libertarians Elliott Polin ‘21. “We tend to prioritize having everybody voting than having identified voters.”
Republicans contend that maintaining accuracy in voting is crucial.
“Theoretically you could walk in there, and say ‘my name is Geoffrey Sizemore, and I’m registered at 209 Ridge Road, Davidson, North Carolina 20835,’ and then you could go vote as Geoffrey Sizemore,” Sizemore said.
Of the six amendments on the ballot, the least partisan is the victim’s rights amendment also known as Marsy’s Law. In short, the amendment would ensure those convicted serve their full sentences, extend the time of parole, and provide restitution to families who suffer a loss.
In the legislature’s vote to place the amendment on the ballot most Democrats and Republicans support the amendment. In the NC House, Democrats voted 35-8 in favor and Republicans voted 72-1 in favor. In the NC Senate, Democrats voted 12-1 in favor and Republicans voted 33-0 in favor. Ironically enough, the Democrats currently oppose the amendment. The reason why is not apparent; however, it could be because supporting only one amendment might confuse voters into voting for an amendment they oppose.
The income tax rate won’t affect current taxation, but only change the government’s ability to change it in the future. The amendment would cap state income tax at 7%, as the cap currently sits at 10%; however, the current North Carolina income tax rate is 5.25%. This amendment would not lower income tax in the short-term but could significantly limit the ability to raise taxes going forward.
The other two amendments have sparked less discussion, but remain important. The right to hunt and fish would not change the way hunting is currently regulated, but would protect hunting and fishing as an established right. The amendment on the Ethics and Elections Board seeks to take a member off the current board. The Ethics and Elections board is charged with ensuring fair and legal election practices in the state. There are currently nine members of the board. This amendment would increase legislative power because the board is controlled by the government.
For the political organizations on campus, the next steps are to inform voters about the amendments to ensure wise voting.
“We have not talked very much about the amendments; we are…segmenting our efforts,” said Bock. “Now that we have people registered to vote…we need to give them information on how to be informed.”