Elections 2018

Six amendments to state constitution on Nov. 6 ballot

The Nov. 6 general election ballot includes six proposed amendments to the state constitution, for which the General Assembly voted, mostly along party lines, Republicans in favor, Democrats against.

North Carolina’s five living former governors are against two of the proposed amendments that shift certain powers from the governor’s office to the legislature.

For House District 6, Republican candidate Bobby Hanig supports all amendments, Democratic candidate Tess Judge opposes all of them.

For Senate District 1, Democratic candidate, D. Cole Phelps is against all six amendments, Republican candidate Bob Steinburg supports them.

Below is a summary and some paraphrasing of the amendments.

  1. Amendment for the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.

It would acknowledge the right to also use “traditional methods” to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife, though those methods are not defined.

This right would be subject to laws passed by the Legislature and rules to promote wildlife conservation and management and to preserve the future of hunting and fishing.

 If it passes, the amendment will not affect any laws regarding trespassing, property rights or eminent domain.

The amendment does not address its effect on local laws concerning public safety or on commercial hunting and fishing. The amendment would also establish that public hunting and fishing are a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.

  1. Amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime; to establish certain absolute basic rights for victims; and to ensure the enforcement of these rights.

If this amendment is adopted, the constitution would guarantee victims the right to be treated with dignity and respect; reasonable, accurate and timely notice of a proceeding, upon request; to be present at any proceeding, upon request; to be reasonably heard at additional kinds of court hearings; restitution in a reasonably timely manner, when ordered by the court; information about the crime, upon request and to reasonably confer with the prosecutor.

The amendment would expand the types of offenses that trigger victims’ rights to include all crimes against the person and felony property crimes. These rights would also apply to juvenile offenders’ cases.

  1. Amendment to reduce the state income tax rate to a maximum rate of seven percent.

The current maximum personal and corporate income tax rate in the constitution is 10 percent. This proposed amendment does not change the current individual income tax rate of 5.499 percent or corporate income tax rate of 3 percent.

It limits how much the state income tax rate could go up. It does not affect sales taxes, property taxes or federal taxes.

Income taxes are one of the ways states raise money to pay for core services such as public education, health and safety.

The proposed amendment does not include any exceptions. In times of disaster or recession, the state would take measures such as cutting core services, raising sales taxes or fees, or increasing borrowing.

  1. Amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.

This amendment would require voters to show photographic identification to a poll-worker before voting in person. It does not apply to absentee voting. The Legislature would legislate acceptable and unacceptable forms of photographic identification after passage of the proposed amendment. The Legislature would be authorized to establish exceptions to the requirement to present photographic identification before voting, but it is not required to make any exceptions. There are no further details on how voters could acquire valid photographic identification for the purposes of voting.

  1. Amendment to control judicial appointments

In North Carolina, the people have a constitutional right to elect judges. Currently, when judges leave office before the end of their term, the governor appoints a new judge. In most instances, the person who is appointed by the governor holds office for less than two years until the next general election. This amendment would take away the governor’s current authority to select a replacement judge. The amendment would give the Legislature most of the control over judicial appointments.

  1. Amendment to establish an eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement to administer ethics and elections law.

This amendment would change the way the state elections board is appointed. Today, North Carolina has a nine-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections to administer ethics and elections law.

The governor appoints eight members of this board from nominees provided by the two largest political parties. The governor also appoints the ninth member, who is not a member of a political party, from nominations provided by the other eight members.

The Legislature passed a law in 2017 establishing an eight-member board to administer elections, ethics and lobbying laws.

The North Carolina Supreme Court struck that law down as unconstitutional because it took executive authority from the governor. The 2017 law also lacked representation of unaffiliated voters. This proposed amendment would overturn that Supreme Court decision. It would reduce the current board from nine members to eight by removing the only member who represents unaffiliated voters.

If the amendment passes, majority and minority political party leaders in the Legislature would nominate the potential members of the board and there would be no ninth nonpartisan member. Removing the ninth board member may result in a 4-to-4 partisan deadlock vote. Under current law, a tie on this board could drastically restrict early voting opportunities.

The website of the North Carolina League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government, has an online voter’s guide here.