UPDATE 7/23, 12:00 pm: Colin Campbell of News and Observer reports that Democrats have been asked to plan for a session tomorrow, TUESDAY 7/24 at 12 pm. See tweet below:
You read that right. Over the weekend, Rep. David Lewis expressed concern that the NC Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission, consisting of Attorney General Josh Stein, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, and General Assembly Legislative Services' Officer Paul Coble, "was facing pressure to write politicized captions" of proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. He suggested that the commission either adopt the original wording as proposed by GOP-supermajority led NC legislature, or that the commission be rejected and that instead, the GOP-led supermajority legislature should be called into special session to submit the wording of captions to NC State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement by week of August 6.
You can read his letter in the following tweet:
Concerns from House rules chair @RepDavidRLewis over how wording will be decided for proposed amendments on the constitution. Copy of letter he sent @NCHouseSpeaker asking to be called back in to session for legislature to do wording themselves. #ncpol #ncga #breaking pic.twitter.com/dCQYhzmCo9— Loretta Boniti (@LorettaBoniti) July 21, 2018
What Representative David Lewis fails to mention is that:
(1) The majority of Commission are Democrats (Marshall, Stein).
(2) The Commission's power to determine captions on ballot was formed in 2016, when NC GOP still held power in legislature and had a GOP governor. Specifically: "In 2016, the law was amended to give the Commission the additional duty of preparing a short caption to go on the ballot reflecting the contents of the summary for each proposed amendment. Once approved by the Commission, the full summary of each proposed amendment, along with the captions, will be made available to the public and the media, and will be available to voters through county boards of election prior to the November election." More from NC Policy Watch.
(3) Previous constitutional amendments had at least 10 years of extensive existing legislation before becoming amendments. None of the proposed six constitutional amendments have previous existing legislation.
(4) The taxpayers of NC (that's us!) will foot the bill for this special session to rewrite rules and also potential ligitation that may ensue if this GOP supermajority-led NCGA holds this specific special session.
(5) This might confuse voters and dissuade them to come vote (because things keep changing, who knows what they're voting for?)
What can you do? You can submit your own captions for proposed constitutional amendments, and the Commission is still taking public input, but only by July 25, 5 pm. Go here. Click the amendment you have a suggestion for, then scroll down and choose “How to submit…”
Update: Here's why captions are important, as explained in Longleaf Politics - they take up important piece of "prime real estate" on ballots. Andrew Dunn, the writer, suggests that it may be easier to just call them by numbers (such as "Amendment 3").
If you need examples, Gerry Cohen, a respected political veteran in NC politics, has excellent suggestions in the following tweet:
Under a 2016 law, the #ncpol "Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission" (Elaine Marshall, Josh Stein, and Paul Coble) will write short captions for the ballot for the 6 amendments. I've submitted suggested captions on all six, see my memo here: https://t.co/lmlHFVBMaL— Gerry Cohen (@gercohen) July 20, 2018
In addition, you can write to your local NC legislator expressing your concerns about this brazen power grab.