The North Carolina General Assembly debated a wide range of bills affecting our civil rights and civil liberties during the 2017-18 session, including equality for LGBTQ people, voting rights, privacy rights, immigrants’ rights, and juvenile justice reform. Despite public outcry, legislators on both sides of the aisle again advanced measures that attacked core rights that we all value.  

Today we are releasing the latest edition of Liberty Watch, our legislative report card that shows how your representatives voted on these crucial civil liberties issues. We documented state House and Senate votes on six pieces of legislation, all but one of which we opposed for its impact on civil rights and civil liberties.  

Check out our report card to see how your representatives voted on these important issues. 

With every state House and state Senate seat on the ballot this year, it's more important than ever that we demand that our elected officials protect our rights -- and hold them accountable when they don't.  

The votes graded were on the following bills and issues:      

LGBTQ Equality: The House and Senate approved and Governor Roy Cooper signed House Bill 142, the H.B. 2 replacement law that created uncertainty about whether transgender people are subject to criminal or other penalties if they use restrooms and other facilities in public spaces. It also blocked cities and counties from passing protections for LGBTQ people against discrimination in employment or public accommodations until December 2020. The ACLU opposed the new law, calling instead for a clean repeal of H.B. 2, and is currently challenging H.B. 142 in federal court.     

Voting Rights: The House and Senate approved House Bill 1092, which places a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot that, if approved by voters, would require North Carolinians to show a photo ID in order to vote in future elections. State lawmakers, who in 2013 crafted a voter ID law that a federal court struck down because its restrictions targeted Black voters “with almost surgical precision,” would get to decide which types of IDs would be allowed, and which exceptions, if any, would be granted. The House and Senate also passed, over Governor Cooper’s veto, Senate Bill 325, which limited early voting options for North Carolinians by making it more difficult for counties to keep multiple early voting sites open and took away the flexibility to open additional voting sites part-time in order to accommodate demand and increase access for rural residents, those with disabilities, and those without transportation. The ACLU of North Carolina opposed both bills.      

Privacy Rights: The House and Senate passed, and Governor Cooper signed, Senate Bill 616, which gives local law enforcement sweeping, unprecedented power to look through a person’s entire history of prescription drug use at the pharmacy if they are under investigation for any drug crime, even possessing a tiny amount of any controlled substance. It also eliminates the requirement for law enforcement to obtain a court order, a crucial protection for our constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures, before searching someone’s prescriptions records in a state database. The ACLU of North Carolina opposed the bill, urging officials to combat substance abuse through public health solutions, rather than giving more power to law enforcement to violate people’s civil liberties.     

Juvenile Justice: The House approved House Bill 280, under which 16- and 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors and low-level felonies will no longer be treated as adults in North Carolina’s criminal justice system, beginning in December 2019. The bill’s language became law when it was inserted into the state budget. North Carolina was the last-remaining state in the nation to treat every 16- and 17-year-old charged with a crime as an adult, subjecting them to adult sentences, adult jails, and the lifetime consequences of an adult criminal record. The ACLU of North Carolina supported the bill as part of a longtime advocacy effort with partner organizations.     

Immigrants’ Rights: The Senate approved Senate Bill 145, a sweeping anti-immigrant measure that would have directed state police to participate in the federal government’s deportation force, punished local governments that enact their own policies related to immigration, and defunded any University of North Carolina institution that limited its role in enforcing federal immigration law. The ACLU of North Carolina opposed this bill, which was never voted on in the House and did not become law. 

This election, remember to vote like your rights depend on it -- because they do.

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