Important cases that directly affect the November election were heard in the courts this week, as we reported on August 8. Bottom line: ballot printing is on hold pending decisions and appeals, and the absentee voting period is likely to be shortened as a result. We may never know for sure if the last-minute chaos around the constitutional amendments is part of a long-term plan on the part of Republican leadership at the NC General Assembly (NCGA). We remember that the Jan 2018 session was rumored to be about constitutional amendments, which would have given ample time for objections, hearings, and appeals before the November election. Now the judges are under major pressure to make a quick decision, with limited time for appeals and an incentive to avoid interfering with the mandated election timeline. It seems likely to some that Senator Berger and Representative Moore had this in mind when they chose to wait until the last days of a June special session to introduce the proposed constitutional amendments.
Here's a quick update on the week's hearings.
On Monday, Wake County Superior Court Judge Rebecca Holt agreed with Chris Anglin (running for NC Supreme Court as a Republican) and Rebecca Edwards (running for Wake County District Court as a Democrat) that they were unfairly targeted by a retroactive rule change in the middle of the election. She issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement from printing ballots without their chosen party labels. Republican leaders Berger and Moore are appealing that decision, despite the effect on a key election deadline around ballot printing that could delay the start of absentee balloting and the judge's clear finding against their mid-stream rule change. We don't know yet when and where that appeal will be heard. Appeal reminds voter legislative leaders are elections cheaters.
Gov Cooper filed suit against two of the constitutional amendments and Clean Air NC and the NC NAACP filed suit against four (details). On Monday, all five living former NC governors joined Gov Cooper's suit against the NCGA's "power grab". On Wednesday, a three-judge panel ordered the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement to halt the ballot printing process until Sept. 1 or whenever they make a decision or an appellate court weighs in about these challenges over constitutional amendment language. Sept. 1 is the absolute deadline for printing ballots in order to comply with a federal law that absentee ballots be available 45 days before an election, Sept 22. The elections board supports Cooper's contention that the ballot language is misleading and shouldn't be allowed on the ballot as is because the board has a duty to provide ballots that the average voter can understand and that are free of bias.
A lawyer for Senator Berger and Representative Moore said in court, "The legislature alone is the arbiter of how a ballot question is written and neither the courts, the governor nor the public can demand that the wording be clear about an amendment’s effect." (emphasis mine). Let's just let that sink in.
And, lest we forget, there's also a federal lawsuit pending: the newly constituted Constitution Party is suing over the "sore loser" law the NCGA passed in June that keeps their previously certified candidates from appearing on the November ballot - and potentially splitting the Republican vote.
Our heads are spinning, and we're starting to wonder if we'll even have a NC election in November - at least one that's legal and fair. Of course, we've already had several elections using illegal gerrymandered maps.
All of this makes what we do between now and November even more important! We need to educate ourselves and our fellow citizens, GET OUT THE VOTE, and #NIXALLSIX.