Last night, North Carolina voters soundly rejected two of six proposed amendments to our state constitution that had been placed on the ballot by the North Carolina General Assembly.
The two amendments that were defeated -- after facing opposition from all five of North Carolina's living former governors, Republican and Democrat -- would have taken power away from the governor to make appointments to empty judicial seats and the State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement, respectively, and given them instead to the General Assembly.
The rejection of these two amendments shows that voters strongly believe in our state government’s separation of powers and do not support extreme power grabs by state legislators bent on rigging the system in their favor.
The ACLU of North Carolina opposed all six amendments because of the threat they posed to civil rights and civil liberties. As a member of the statewide “By the People” coalition, we worked to educate voters about their dangerous impact.
While we are disappointed by the passage of four of these amendments, we know we had an uphill battle in this campaign. Lawmakers placed the amendments on the ballot through a rushed and contentious process, often with little or no debate or explanation of the amendments’ potential impact. The language on the ballot was deceptively worded, and polls showed that many voters said they were not aware of or did not fully understand the amendments placed before them.
The amendment that passed by the smallest margin -- a requirement that voters show a photo ID in order to cast an in-person ballot in future elections -- is perhaps the most consequential. The last time North Carolina enacted a photo ID requirement for voting, lawmakers designed restrictions that a federal court found targeted Black voters ‘with almost surgical precision.’
More than 1,400 citizens were denied their right to vote under that law. 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. While voters may have approved the photo ID requirement in concept, the fine details of the law must now be decided by many of the same lawmakers who passed the discriminatory 2013 law that was struck down.
When the lame-duck General Assembly convenes to decide how to fill in the blanks of this new restriction, nothing short of the future of voting rights in North Carolina will be on the line.
The ACLU of North Carolina and our partners will do everything in our power to hold lawmakers accountable and ensure that the final version of this law does not prevent any eligible voter from casting their ballot. Whether they are students, seniors, people of color, rural residents, or disabled, voters must be allowed to use a broad range of IDs, obtain a free photo ID if they need one, and be granted exceptions in reasonable circumstances.
Over the next few weeks, people across the state must tell lawmakers that any discrimination against eligible voters will not be tolerated.