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2018 Constitutional Amendments- Ballot Questions

Constitutional Amendments: What are you voting for?

During the last week of the 2018 Legislative Session, legislators passed six Constitutional Amendments that will be on the ballot in November. Many of these amendments were passed as an effort to get voters to the polls (just like the Marriage Amendment in 2012!).


When voters go to the polls in November, in addition to choosing representatives to the state House of Representatives and Senate, U.S. House, judicial seats, county commissioners, school board members and sheriffs, they will also be asked to consider six proposed amendments that will fundamentally change the constitution of the State of North Carolina.

 

Marsy's Law

HB 551 Strengthening Victims’ Rights

Voters will vote FOR or AGAINST: “Constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime, to establish certain, absolute basic rights for victims, and to ensure the enforcement of these rights."

 

WHAT IS ALREADY LAW: Article 1, Section 37 of the constitution outlines the rights of victims of crime. This includes information about the conviction, the right to be heard at sentencing, the right to be informed of and present at court proceedings of the defendant, restitution, etc.

 

IF PASSED: The wording of the legislation changes these same rights to say they are to be granted “upon request,” rather than being provided in any case. Additionally, it adds a point of “no restriction of authority” which ensures that none of the listed victim rights may be construed to restrict the power of the district attorney or the inherent power of the court.

 

IF NOT PASSED: The section in the constitution remains unchanged and victims maintain their current rights as outlined in Article 1, Section 37 of the North Carolina Constitution.

 

NASW-NC RECOMMENDATION: Vote AGAINST
North Carolina citizens already have these rights under North Carolina law and while we see the importance of including the additions into state statute, no bipartisan amendments were allowed during the development of this amendment and it was drafted without funding considerations. Additionally, rights for juveniles were not outlined and could be violated if legislators do not specifically enact legislation protecting their confidentiality.

 

Right to Hunt and Fish

SB 677 Protect Right to Hunt and Fish

Voters will vote FOR or AGAINST: “Constitutional amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife."

 

WHAT IS ALREADY LAW: You can find all hunting and fishing regulations at www.ncwildlife.org/Licensing/Regulations

 

IF PASSED: It gives greater weight to the right to hunt and fish by solidifying it in the constitution. This could potentially be used to challenge current restrictions in place that are intended to promote wildlife conservation.

 

IF NOT PASSED: North Carolinians and visitors who wish to hunt and fish can do so in accordance with the regulations made available by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

 

NASW-NC RECOMMENDATION: Vote AGAINST

North Carolina citizens already have these rights and they are currently regulated under North Carolina licensing requirements and certain state laws (like limitations for hunting on Sundays). The amendment also specifies that they have the right to use “traditional methods” to hunt and fish, a term not defined in state code. It also does not specify what wildlife can be hunted.

Bipartisan Ethics and Elections Enforcement

This amendment originally passed as House Bill 913 but was challenged. A three judge panel ruled that the language needed to be re-written or pulled off the ballot for the November elections. Legislators rewrote the language under House Bill 4 Bipartisan Ethics and Elections Enforcement.

Voters will vote FOR or AGAINST: "Constitutional amendment to establish an eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement in the Constitution to administer ethics and elections law."

 

WHAT IS ALREADY LAW: In the past the governor has been able to appoint people to the nine-person board with the majority coming from the party of the governor. Currently, the law requires that four come from the republican party, four come from the democratic party, and one member is from neither party.

 

IF PASSED: The legislator would become responsible for appointing members to this board. The total number of positions on the board would be limited to eight, with four members from each major party.

 

IF NOT PASSED: The governor will maintain the power to appoint members to the board with the current party criteria.

 

NASW-NC RECOMMENDATION: Vote AGAINST

While this sounds like a good idea, this actually takes power away from the governor, weakening the balance of the executive branch of the North Carolina government. This hands power back to the legislature. Past attempts at changing the composition of the Board of Ethics and Elections were deemed unconstitutional by the NC Supreme Court. So, the current legislature’s solution is to include it IN the constitution.


Judicial Merit Commission

This amendment originally passed as Senate Bill 814 but was challenged. A three judge panel ruled that the language needed to be re-written or pulled off the ballot for the November elections. Legislators rewrote the language under House Bill 3 Nonpartisan Judicial Merit Commission.

 

Voters will vote FOR or AGAINST: “Constitutional amendment to change the process for filling judicial vacancies that occur between judicial elections from a process in which the Governor has sole appointment power to a process in which the people of the State nominate individuals to fill vacancies by way of a commission comprised of appointees made by the judicial, executive, and legislative branches charged with making recommendations to the legislature as to which nominees are deemed qualified; then the legislature will recommend at least two nominees to the Governor via legislative action not subject to gubernatorial veto; and the Governor will appoint judges from among these nominees."

 

WHAT IS ALREADY LAW: Currently, the governor appoints judges in the case of judicial vacancy.

 

IF PASSED: This system would allow anyone in the state to submit potential candidates to a commission which would then send a list to the legislature. The legislature would then give two names to the governor to choose from. If the elections are coming up, this selection power would be given to the chief justice of the NC Supreme Court.

 

IF NOT PASSED: The governor will maintain the power to appoint justices and judges in case of vacancy.

 

NASW-NC RECOMMENDATION: Vote AGAINST

While this sounds great this actually reduces the power of the executive and judicial branch and shifts even more power to the legislature. Balance of power is critical to our democracy.


Maximum Income Tax Rate

SB 75 Constitutional Amendment- Maximum Income Tax Rate of 7.0%

Voters will vote FOR or AGAINST: “Constitutional amendment to reduce the income tax rate in North Carolina to a maximum allowable rate of seven percent (7%).”

 

WHAT IS ALREADY LAW: Currently, within the constitution, the maximum allowable income tax rate is ten percent. This has been the cap since 1936.

 

IF PASSED: Income tax rates are currently lower than this cap (5.75%), meaning there would be no change in the tax rate upon this amendment being passed.

 

IF NOT PASSED: The current tax rate will remain and the cap will stay at ten percent.

 

NASW-NC RECOMMENDATION: Vote AGAINST

Income tax is used to fund health and human services, public schools, public safety, roads and bridges. As social workers know, these services are essential to building strong and healthy communities. This cut would mostly benefit the wealthy and, to make up for the budget shortfall, there could be an increase in property and sales taxes which disproportionately impacts working class and low-income individuals. By placing this into the state Constitution, future legislators will have a hard time overturning this when taxes need to be raised to keep up with the growth in North Carolina.

Voter I.D.

HB1092 Require photo ID to vote

Voters will vote FOR or AGAINST: “Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.” The legislation also directs the NCGA to develop laws governing the regulations needed in state law to oversee voter I.D.

 

WHAT IS ALREADY LAW: The US Supreme Court struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law in 2016 after the court ruled it was intentionally designed to stop African Americans from voting.

 

IF PASSED: This amendment would require voters to present photo identification at the polls before voting. The amendment does not specify what type of ID will qualify.

 

IF NOT PASSED: All registered voters in North Carolina are able to vote. In order to register to vote a person must be: a US citizen, at least 18 years of age by the date of the general election, A resident of the county for at least 30 days before the election in which you want to vote; A person who is not serving a felony sentence, including probation or parole.


NASW-NC RECOMMENDATION: Vote AGAINST

The State Board of Elections concluded in 2017 that out of 4.8 million votes cast in the 2016 presidential election, one fraudulent vote would have been thwarted by a photo ID. Mississippi is the only state in the U.S. that has a constitutional amendment for voter ID.


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