September 11, 2018

When North Carolinians go to the polls this year, they will be asked to vote on six proposed amendments to our state constitution that range from flawed to harmful.

These six amendments represent an effort by the North Carolina General Assembly to make sweeping, permanent, and unnecessary changes to our state’s most important legal document. Lawmakers have placed these six proposed amendments on the ballot through a rushed and contentious process, often with little or no debate or explanation of the amendments’ potential impact.

If approved, the amendments would threaten many of the civil rights and civil liberties that we work to defend and that North Carolina’s Constitution is supposed to protect. The impact of many are still unknown, and all could bring unintended consequences.

The ACLU of North Carolina urges you to vote AGAINST all six constitutional amendments that will appear on your ballot this election.

For [  ]                Against [X]

Here’s how each amendment will be listed and worded on the ballot, what it does, and why you should vote against it.

Voter ID restriction

What it says: Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.

What it does:

  • Require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast an in-person ballot in future elections.
  • The General Assembly – which has a well-documented history of passing discriminatory voting restrictions – would have the authority to decide which IDs would be allowed and what exceptions, if any, would be granted.

Why you should vote against:

  • It’s extreme. Only one other state, Mississippi, includes a photo ID requirement in its state constitution, but that ballot language specifically included reasonable accommodations. North Carolina’s does not.

  • It will restrict voting access for some of the state’s most marginalized voters. People of color, low-income voters, rural voters, the elderly, people with disabilities, and transgender North Carolinians all disproportionately lack and face challenges to getting a photo ID.

  • The General Assembly cannot be trusted with a blank check to decide which forms of ID will be allowed. The last time the General Assembly passed a voter ID law, a federal court found that lawmakers targeted Black voters “with discriminatory intent” and “almost surgical precision” by allowing IDs disproportionately used by white voters, but not those disproportionately used by Black voters.

  • More than 1,400 citizens were denied their right to vote when North Carolina’s last photo ID law was in effect. Many of those voters were turned away because they didn’t have “the right ID.” Those they did have – like student IDs and trucking licenses – were not accepted under the law.

  • Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. We should not silence the voices of law-abiding, registered voters by placing unnecessary hurdles between them and that fundamental right to vote.

Marsy’s Law

What is says: 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 it does:

  • Better known as “Marsy’s Law,” it would enshrine broadly defined rights for crime victims into the state constitution, making it impossible to change or adjust related state laws.

  • For example, it would require that victims of a broad range of crimes be given the ability to be heard at all court proceedings concerning the person being charged with that crime.

  • While the full impact of these changes is still debated, a fiscal note by North Carolina’s Administrative Office of the Courts estimated that Marsy’s Law would cost $16.4 million to implement and an additional $30.5 million annually. Campaigns to pass Marsy’s Law across the country have been backed by California billionaire Henry Nicholas.

Why you should vote against:

  • It’s costly and harmful: Victims deserve dignity and respect, but this proposal is a misguided set of empty promises that would ultimately delay justice for all at an annual cost of $30 million to taxpayers.

  • It threatens people’s rights: Changing our constitution in such a broad way could undermine the rights of people who appear in court, tie the hands of judges, and make it harder to pay for vital programs designed to help young people and others turn their lives around.  

  • It ties the hands of judges: Judges would have less flexibility in court proceedings, which could interfere with people’s Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial and competent legal representation.

  • It’s unnecessary: North Carolina already has a strong victim’s rights law that the ACLU of North Carolina supports. But if “Marsy’s Law” is enshrined in the constitution, lawmakers would be unable to tweak and adjust the law to offset any harmful side effects.

  • It undermines the rights of young people in the criminal justice system by eliminating differences in how North Carolina treats juveniles (age 17 and younger) and adults. The ACLU and many partners have worked for years to “raise the age” of juvenile jurisdiction in North Carolina so that 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be automatically treated as adults in the criminal justice system. Putting Marsy’s Law in the state constitution would reverse some of that hard-fought work.

Appointment Powers

What it says: Constitutional amendment to establish an eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement in the Constitution to administer ethics and elections law.

What it does:

  • Takes away the Governor’s power to make appointments to the State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement and gives it instead to the General Assembly.

  • Reduces the State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement from nine to eight members – eliminating the ninth unaffiliated member and splitting the remaining eight evenly between Republicans and Democrats.

Why you should vote against:

  • It’s a power grab by the General Assembly, pure and simple, and would threaten the important separation of powers between North Carolina’s executive and legislative branches.

  • It would silence the voices of unaffiliated and third-party voters and create partisan gridlock that makes it harder for our state’s elections officials to make important decisions that are necessary to conducting fair and orderly elections, such as where and when to open early voting sites.

  • All five living former North Carolina governors have urged the public to vote against this amendment. “It’s not about partisan politics,” said former Gov. Jim Martin, a Republican. “It’s about power politics.”

Judicial Appointments

What it says: 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 it does:

  • Takes away the governor’s power to appoint judges to empty seats and transfers it instead to the General Assembly.

  • Newly appointed judges would also be able to serve for up to four years without an election under the changes.

  • Creates a “Nonpartisan Judicial Merit Commission” whose members would be appointed by the General Assembly, the governor, and the chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. The commission would verify that people nominated to be judges are legally eligible.

  • When a judicial seat becomes vacant, the General Assembly would select two or more nominees vetted by the commission and recommend them to the governor. If the governor does not appoint one of those nominees within 10 days, the General Assembly would choose the judge. If the General Assembly does not act or is not in session, the chief justice has the power to fill the seat.

Why you should vote against:

  • It’s another power grab by the General Assembly that would threaten the separation of powers and was hurriedly placed on the ballot with little public debate.

  • It’s deceptive: The language that will appear on the ballot to describe this amendment is misleading and incomplete.

  • It would open the door to allowing the General Assembly to pack courts with friendly judges who could be asked to decide the constitutionality of laws it passes.

  • All five living former North Carolina governors have urged the public to vote against this amendment. “It’s not about partisan politics,” said former Gov. Jim Martin, a Republican. “It’s about power politics.”

Income tax cap

What it says: Constitutional amendment to reduce the income tax rate in North Carolina to a maximum allowable rate of seven percent (7%).

What it does:

  • Reduces the maximum rate of state income tax that any North Carolinian, regardless of personal wealth or income, would have to pay from 10 percent to 7 percent.

Why you should vote against:

  • It makes it harder to fund important programs: It could greatly reduce the amount of funding available for an array of programs that are important to making North Carolina more just and equitable, from public education and mental health care to juvenile justice reform (“raise the age”) and more just alternatives to jailing people who have not been found guilty of a crime but cannot afford to pay bail.

  • It would benefit the state’s wealthiest residents and punish low-income residents. Local governments could be forced to make up for lost revenue by increasing sales and property taxes, which would shift the tax burden in a way that disproportionately falls on low-income and working-class North Carolinians.   

Hunting and Fishing Rights

What it says: Constitutional amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife.

What it does:

  • No one can say for sure. Even fewer can explain why it’s needed. Some legislators who voted for the bill said the amendment would do “nothing” and conceded that it’s unnecessary. The language in the amendment is nearly identical to legislation written and pushed by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Why you should vote against:

Hunting and fishing rights are not under attack in North Carolina, but our state constitution is. We should not be littering such an important document – the foundation of our state government – with potentially meaningless and redundant provisions passed with little public explanation or debate.

Make sure to vote!

Election Day is Tuesday, November 6.
Early voting is available from October 17 to November 3.
Not registered to vote? Learn how to register here.
Find your sample ballot and voting location here.

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