The Constitutional Amendments on North Carolina Ballots This November

The North Carolina General Assembly has proposed six constitutional amendments for the ballot this fall. What follows is a summary and discussion of the six propositions landing on the ballot in November, including a contentious voter ID law, expanded rights for victims of violent crime, and checks on the power of the Governor.

Constitutional Right to Hunt and Fish

The amendment states: “[the] people have a right, including the right to use traditional methods, to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject only to laws enacted by the General Assembly.” The law seems relatively simple, but has caused quite a bit of controversy. Proponents of the amendment claim current hunting and fishing regulations threaten residents’ right to hunt and fish. Opponents argue the law is unnecessary, could allow for cruel hunting methods and might further override environmental protections.

Marsy’s Law

 Then-California Attorney General Jerry Brown with leaders at the forefront of Proposition 9, more commonly known as Marsy's Law, in 2011 ( source )

Then-California Attorney General Jerry Brown with leaders at the forefront of Proposition 9, more commonly known as Marsy's Law, in 2011 (source)

Marsy’s Law would provide victims of crime the right to be notified of court proceedings, the right to be present at the case and the right to be notified upon the release of the accused upon request of the victim. Supporters of the bill argue it provides important rights to victims by allowing for more transparency in court. However, some contend the law could lead to unintended consequences, such as delayed court cases and increased costs to the state.

Furthermore, NC state law already protects victims’ rights. Marsy’s Law in particular has been passed in California and similar versions enacted in Illinois and Ohio.

Board Appointments

The amendment would remove the governor’s ability to appoint members to the State Board of Ethics and Elections, and would give that power to the state legislature. The governor would be able to pick board members from the options given by the board, a committee made up of eight members of the legislature. Proponents argue it centralizes power in the legislature; opponents contest it is a power grab by the state legislature.

“Sunshine” Amendment

 Governor Roy Cooper ( source )

Governor Roy Cooper (source)

In an effort to shed light on the judicial appointments process, the Sunshine Amendment is designed to redirect the governor’s powers to appoint judges to judicial vacancies. Currently, the governor can make appointments to fill vacant judgeships, but the Sunshine bill would replace the process with a committee stacked with members of the General Assembly. They will then present judicial nominees to the governor, who must choose from those options. Proponents argue the governor has too much power in appointments and that power should be more evenly distributed among the legislature. However, the bill’s opponents, which include every living governor of North Carolina, believe the committee would result in political appointments of judges. They have also argued that it is an attempt by the General Assembly to take power away from the governor.

Voter ID

The amendment would require that voters show some form of photographic identification when they go to vote. Proponents argue it is intended to protect against voter fraud, but the bill has received quite a bit of backlash. Voter ID bills are controversial nationwide; opponents point towards the difficulties in place to receive a photographic ID and argue Voter ID laws discriminate against elderly and minority citizens. This bill in particular has caused controversy because there is no statement of what would count as “photographic identification,” and the General Assembly does not plan to clarify the issue until after the election. For example, a student ID may or may not be sufficient. Groups such as Let America Vote, a voters rights group led by former Secretary of State of Missouri Jason Kander, have spoken out in opposition to this bill.

Income Tax

The  amendment would cap the state income tax at seven percent. Proponents contend that lowered tax rates are beneficial for the state economy. Opponents argue it will limit the state’s ability to change tax rates in the case of changing economic conditions, and that the bill benefits wealthier people in the state.