UPDATES 8/9! Click the link for details.

  • Three-judge panel will hear constitutional amendment ballot language arguments at 9:30 am on Aug. 17.
  • Chris Anglin announced late Wednesday that if he did not prevail in court, he would withdraw from the race rather than have his party affiliation misrepresented.

We posted last week about the NCGA's efforts to keep voters in the dark about the implications of their six proposed constitutional amendments (CAs). As expected, the NCGA voted on Saturday to override Gov. Cooper's vetoes of two laws that set the ballot titles for CAs and the party labels for some judicial candidates in the November elections.

  • House Bill (HB) 3 mandates that all six proposed CAs should be titled "Constitutional Amendment," repealing a 2016 law (passed by the same legislators!) that directs the Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission to formulate a ballot title. Two of the three members of that commission are Democrats, so the Republicans fear that the ballot titles would accurately describe the amendments.
  • Senate Bill (SB) 3 changes the laws governing the 2018 judicial elections to remove partisan labels from candidates who changed parties within 90 days of filing for the race. This is seen by some as targeting Chris Anglin, a candidate for the state Supreme Court who legally filed to run as a Republican after having been a Democrat. Three other judicial candidates also would be affected.

Monday morning saw several lawsuits filed over the CAs and veto overrides:

  • The North Carolina NAACP and Clean Air Carolina filed a lawsuit over four of the six proposed CAs: voter identification, boards and commissions appointments, judicial vacancy appointments and the tax cap. They seek an immediate temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the proposals from appearing on ballots set to be finalized Wednesday (but already delayed based on Chris Anglin's lawsuit, see below).
  • Gov Cooper filed suit against two of the CAs, boards and commissions appointments and judicial vacancy appointments, on the basis of their changing constitutional separation of powers among branches of government. These first two CA suits were considered together on Tuesday by the same judge in a contentious hearing.
  • Chris Anglin, NC Supreme Court candidate, and Rebecca Edwards, Wake County District Court candidate, each filed suits to have SB 3 blocked. A Wake County Superior Court judge refused to order the NCGA to label Chris Anglin a Republican on November's ballots, but did tell the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to postpone finalizing the ballots until another hearing can be held next Monday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the judge hearing the combined CA case is asking the NC Supreme Court Chief Justice to convene a three judge panel to hear that case because of its urgency and importance. If that can happen quickly, he believes that is where ruling can be made. If can't be done quickly, he will retain his jurisdiction.

Amidst this confusion, the state commission charged with creating simple, descriptive language for the ballots met on Monday and worked on the two amendments that are not the subjects of lawsuits - although if HB 3 stands, their work will be ignored.

Is your head spinning yet? It should be! This chaos is the result of the Republican leadership at the NCGA deciding to try to legislate by constitutional amendment instead of statute because CAs are harder for courts to overturn, having been voted on by "the people." They are proposed without "implementation language," which is extremely unusual and means that the NCGA can create whatever implementation language it wants when it returns for a lame duck session in November. If voters approve the photo ID CA, the NCGA could decide, for example, that a passport or a Real ID are the only acceptable forms of photo ID, which would disenfranchise tens of thousands of eligible voters.

Do you need to catch up on the six proposed CAs? Jeff Jackson describes them here.

For now, buckle your seat belt and stay tuned!

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