I hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day weekend! If you were working over the weekend, thank you for going above and beyond.
For good or ill, the news cycle doesn’t take holidays. To that end, I’ll be providing a mid-week news summary to try to lasso the hurricane that is the state legislature.
NC Policy Watch provides a good starting point: a case-by-case rundown of the court battles around the constitutional amendment ballot language.
As of Tuesday evening, courts have ruled that all six constitutional amendments will be on the ballot this November, which means we, the voters, will be asked to endorse or reject an attempt to cement power which the Republicans conceived in mean spirit, wrote with bad language, and put to their constituents with thought of only deceiving us.
NC Senator Jay Chaudhuri does us all a great service and untangles the purposefully unnecessarily complex language in one amendment. The phrase “judicial vacancies” appears in the amendment, but what it actually does when the rubber hits the road is transfer power from the governor to the legislature. “Specifically,” Senator Chaudhuri writes, “the ballot question would restrict the governor’s ability to appoint judges when a judicial vacancy occurs.” I talk about the importance of the judiciary later on, and hopefully the danger of this amendment—and why the Republicans are trying so furiously to slip it under our noses—will become clear.
In last Wednesday’s post I noted the connection between the constitutional amendment language issue and the litigation surrounding gerrymandering of congressional districts. There have been some updates on that issue as well.
The good news is that elections will move forward as planned. The bad news is that they’ll use the current (illegally gerrymandered) maps. Even the plaintiffs, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause (among others), stated that “‘with the utmost frustration and regret’… a statewide redistricting just weeks before Election Day would not be a good-government solution”. They're right. Things are confusing enough. But credit where it’s due: the Republican-led effort to gerrymander these districts was not a good-government practice to begin with.
While the executive branch and the legislative branch are embroiled in battle, we’re seeing the judiciary do more and more to steer our state’s course. Longleaf Politics hosts a good summary of this phenomenon and goes into more detail on why what’s happening is happening. I personally learned a lot from both pieces.
A bit of good news: a-three judge panel (explained in the first Longleaf article linked above) has ruled that the governor, not the legislature, has the authority to make certain appointments to certain state boards, after Governor Cooper sued to challenge the constitutionality of the legislature filling those appointments itself. I find the panel’s statement particularly satisfying: “The separation of powers clause plainly and clearly does not allow the General Assembly to take this much control over the execution of the laws from the Governor and lodge it within itself”. It’s almost as if we have an entire branch of our government to legislate and an entirely separate branch to execute. I recommend a Civics 101 refresher for our Republican friends in the NCGA. Or better, bluer friends.
I encourage you to take a look at the North Carolina ACLU’s Legislative Report Card. It’s a fantastic summary of six pieces of legislation that affect North Carolinians’ civil liberties. It also charts how each member of the General Assembly voted on each bill.
While you're writing your postcards and checking your voter registration status so you're 100% ready to go either during early voting (October 17th-November 3rd) or on Election Day (November 6th), take a few minutes to find your legislator and either thank them for holding the line against this dangerous, slimy, amoral power grab or firmly but respectfully scold them for their childish acts of bad faith represented by the six amendments and the blatant gerrymandering, among other things.
I'm not particularly good at pep talks either, but I can tell you that we are building something lasting. It seems we're making no progress, but that's just not true. We are learning how to resist. We are teaching our children how much their informed voices matter, and how to get informed. We are learning new, more empathic ways to inhabit our values, and which ones of those we might need to rethink. We, as a whole citizenry, are engaging with our future and with each other in a way that those who would silence us– even if they did– couldn't erase, stop, or alter. We are doing something the Republicans don't have the wherewithal to do: we are building our own grassroots success with the lessons we learn from each failure.
Remember, remember, we vote in November.