RALEIGH – Leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly last night called a surprise special session to introduce legislation that would make sweeping changes to the state’s Board of Elections, Court of Appeals, judicial elections, executive branch appointments and more. Lawmakers had earlier reconvened to allocate funding for victims of Hurricane Matthew and other natural disasters but gave no advance notice of the second special session and additional legislation.
“These shameful partisan tricks undermine the will of North Carolina voters, waste precious taxpayer dollars, and will further erode the public’s trust in our state government,” said Karen Anderson, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina. “As we saw earlier this year with the surprise introduction and passage of the discriminatory, anti-LGBT House Bill 2, extreme legislation that is forced through without proper vetting and debate can have disastrous consequences for North Carolina. Such significant changes to our state’s elections and judicial systems should never be planned in secret and sprung on the public without advance notice. It’s particularly disgraceful that lawmakers have exploited the victims of Hurricane Matthew for partisan gain. These latest proposals could undercut the civil liberties of all North Carolinians.”
Earlier this year, North Carolina lawmakers convened a $42,000 one-day special session to introduce and pass House Bill 2, one of the nation’s most extreme laws targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people for discrimination, which prohibits local municipalities from extending nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people and bans many transgender people from public restrooms and other facilities that match their gender. The measure was introduced, passed, and signed into law in 12 hours. HB2 is being challenged in court by LGBT North Carolinians represented by the ACLU and Lambda Legal and has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business.
Among other changes, SB4, one of the pieces of legislation introduced yesterday, would
• Expand the number of officials on state and county boards of election from five and three to eight and four, respectively, increasing the likelihood of deadlocked votes on crucial matters of voting rights and ballot access.
• Remove the ability of individuals to appeal a trial court’s decision directly to the State Supreme Court and create a new process for the Court of Appeals to hear cases en banc, adding an unnecessary layer of gridlock to an already overworked court system.
• Make the nonpartisan North Carolina Supreme Court elections partisan races, further politicizing a body designed to impartially administer the law.
For live updates on the special session, follow us on Twitter @ACLU_NC.