Understanding the amendments that may appear on our November ballot

Round-up: NC General Assembly discusses four constitutional amendments — hunting and fishing, voter ID, victims’ rights, legislative appointment of judges.

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GOP lawmakers want North Carolinians to make sweeping, permanent changes to the state Constitution and trust them to sort out the details of it all later. The legislature considered four constitutional amendment proposals yesterday and voted to move along two of them and continue discussing the other two.

The two that are moving forward:

1. The House Rules Committee voted first along party lines to pass a constitutional amendment that would protect people’s right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife. There was no debate.

2. An amendment to enshrine a voter identification requirement for in-person voting in North Carolina. The details of how North Carolina’s voter identification process would not be decided until after voters approved the amendment, which technically means lawmakers could resurrect the same “monster voting law” they did before that was struck down by the courts.
•The Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, President of the N.C. NAACP, said: “When voter ID was last attempted in this state, it was proven to block eligible voters from casting ballots, and those who were denied their rights were disproportionately African-American voters. House Bill 1092 would be one of the nation’s most extreme voting restrictions.…Voters are being asked to vote on a confusingly vague and permanent addition to the state constitution and enshrine discrimination without telling them what the change would be.”
•Tomas Lopez, Executive Director of Democracy NC, a voting rights organization, echoed some of Spearman’s sentiments and expounded on the gravity of having a constitutional amendment on a voter identification requirement. Paula Jennings, who represents the League of Women Voters of Wake County, said the organization strongly opposes a voter ID amendment.
•Other members of the public spoke in favor of the amendment, recounting personal experiences with voter fraud and calling for more security.
•It should be noted that the State Board of Elections released an audit of the 2016 election and found that only one of the 4,769,640 votes cast in November would probably have been avoided with a voter ID law.

Committee members voted again along party lines, 21-9, to advance the measure. It is scheduled Monday for a House floor vote. (Only three states have a voter identification requirement in their constitutions.)

The two that will be debated further:

The Senate Judiciary Committee met to debate two more: “Strengthening Victims’ Rights” and “Judicial Vacancy Sunshine Amendment.”

1. The first is a version of Marsy’s Law, which is a multi-part proposal to expand crime victims’ rights. On the surface, it sounds simple, but Senate debate proved it’s anything but. Sen. Tamara Barringer (R-Wake) championed the bill and said the most important provisions involved the expansion of notification to victims of crime about proceedings and outcomes, the expansion of the definition of victim and an enforcement mechanism for victims to file motions in cases when they’re dissatisfied. But, Democratic Senators had a lot of questions, including how notification and a victims’ right to be heard would be implemented in bond reduction hearings, how courts could manage inappropriate victim responses when they have a constitutional right to be heard and how much money would be involved. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said the state Conference of District Attorneys had been consulted about the amendment process and provided feedback up to the day before the meeting. But, she said a lot of what the amendment does is already in place — victims’ rights already are enshrined in North Carolina Constitution. The Committee did not vote on the amendment, but expects to take it up again Monday.

2. The last constitutional amendment discussed was one sprung on the legislature the day before by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. The Judicial Vacancy Sunshine Amendment — sponsored by Senators Warren Daniel (R-Burke), Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus) and Shirley Randleman (R-Stokes) — would transfer judicial vacancy appointment power from the governor to the legislature. The enabling legislation that comes after the constitutional amendment is passed could result in the legislature choosing seven of the nine-member commission and the governor and state Supreme Court Chief Justice each choosing one member. All of the members could be from one party or the other. And lawmakers would not be bound to choose anyone the commission picks. Again, the Senate Committee did not vote on the amendment, but discussion will continue Monday.

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