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N.C. NAACP calls two proposed Constitutional Amendments ‘stunts’


Calling two new proposed constitutional amendments “litigation stunts,” the N.C. NAACP, Forward Justice and the Southern Environmental Law Center are blasting Republican legislative leaders for unveiling them in an alleged effort to bolster two previous constitutional amendments already in litigation.

According to a release from the progressive legal group “Forward Justice,” earlier this month a three-judge panel held a status conference in the N.C. NAACP’s case challenging two constitutional amendments initiated by an illegally racially gerrymandered legislature. The panel ordered the attorneys to propose a plan for next steps, including discovery, by the end of this week.

The release continued, “A couple of days after this status conference, the legislature introduced two new constitutional amendments related to the two already being challenged by N.C. NAACP in court:  One about photo Voter ID – that would modify the constitution to say that voters voting by mail are required to show ID, and another on the State income tax cap - lowering it to 5 percent.  Over the long term, these amendments would enshrine regressive policies into our constitution that would make it harder for marginalized groups to vote and starve our state of funds for things we all need like public schools and environmental protection.”

Forward Justice alleges that “It seems far from coincidental that legislative leaders have chosen to advance two amendments so close in aspect to the amendments that are the subject of their lawsuit just as discovery is about to begin.”

N.C. NAACP Pres. Deborah Dicks Maxwell said, “In 2017, a federal court found that North Carolina legislators were targeting Black voters ‘with surgical precision’ and nearly a decade later we continue to see some of these same legislators deploying new tactics in their ongoing assault on voting rights– all while trying to conceal their bad actions from the public.

“While these relentless attacks are infuriating, they underscore the power of the people and the fear that these legislative leaders have of that power. We will not back down,” Maxwell continued. “We will not allow these elected officials to roll back the freedoms that people sacrificed their very lives to gain. We will continue to pursue every legal challenge to these discriminatory laws and encourage every eligible voter to make their voices heard at the polls this November.”

According to Forward Justice, “This case began in 2018, when the N.C. NAACP challenged two constitutional amendment ballot questions – one imposing a photo ID requirement to vote and one lowering the state income tax cap – on the grounds that the North Carolina legislature was only able to achieve the constitutionally required supermajority by relying on the racial gerrymander. In 2017, the districts were deemed not only unconstitutional, but also one of the largest racial gerrymanders ever encountered by a federal court. However, before remedial elections took place, the legislators rushed to use their unconstitutional power to place amendments on the ballot to change the state’s constitution. Without the illegal racial gerrymandering, the legislature could not have met the constitutionally-required threshold to propose any of these constitutional amendments.”

Forward Justice continued, “In 2019, a Wake County Superior Court judge ruled for the N.C. NAACP and declared the amendments void. That ruling was overturned in a two to one decision of the N.C. Court of Appeals, which brought the matter to the Supreme Court. In 2022, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled in favor of N.C. NAACP that racially gerrymandered legislatures do not have unlimited authority to change North Carolina’s constitution, and sent this case back to the trial court for additional fact-finding.”

“Under that ruling the Tax Cap Amendment and the Photo Voter ID Amendment are currently void. On August 2, 2023, the trial court transferred this matter to a three-judge panel; and a panel of judges was assigned to this case on December 1, 2023. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court for further factual findings and to assess whether the two constitutional amendments in question are the types of amendments the racially gerrymandered legislature lacked the power to place on the ballot.”