A judge’s ruling last week that nullifies two amendments to the N.C. Constitution was the wrong solution to the right problems. And it should be overturned on appeal.
One amendment requires voter ID at the ballot; the other permanently lowers the cap on state income tax rates from 10 percent to 7 percent. Both were ill-conceived and unnecessary.
But the voters approved both provisions on a statewide ballot by solid margins. The voter ID amendment passed with 55.6 percent of voters approving. The new cap on state income tax rates passed with 57 percent of the vote. Both should stand unless the amendments themselves fail legal challenges.
The state NAACP sued over the amendments, and Wake County Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins ruled in its favor. Collins wrote in his decision that the state legislature “is so gerrymandered that its members don’t truly represent the people of the state and thus should never have proposed constitutional amendments in the first place.”
The NAACP was pleased by Collins’ ruling. “We are delighted that the acts of the previous majority, which came to power through the use of racially discriminatory maps, have been checked,” the Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, state NAACP president, said in a news release.
But, the result doesn’t justify the process here.
The judge is absolutely right about gerrymandering — which in effect allows legislators to choose their voters rather than the other way around. It has long been a problem in North Carolina as well as in other states. And if it weren’t for the thumb Republicans have placed on the scale, it’s not very likely the amendments would have been included on the 2018 ballot. Yet, if it weren’t for gerrymandering in the GOP’s favor, a lot of things may never have happened.
Make no mistake, the voter ID amendment was ginned up by phony claims of voter fraud. It disenfranchises the poor and minorities. And yes, the income tax rate amendment is shortsighted, tying the state’s hands in ways that could prevent it from meeting future needs that require public investment. Both still may be overturned for legitimate reasons.
But the referendum on the amendments in November was not gerrymandered. Every eligible voter had an opportunity to weigh in, regardless of party or district. And the yeas prevailed.
“These amendments were placed on the ballot and passed by an overwhelming majority of North Carolinians,” N.C. GOP Chairman Robin Hayes said in a written statement. “This unprecedented and absurd ruling by a liberal judge is the very definition of judicial activism.”
We don’t agree with Hayes on much. But in this case, he’s right.
The state GOP plans to appeal, and the case ultimately could reach the state Supreme Court, where we hope the voters’ desires will carry more weight.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan movement is calling for a new constitutional amendment aimed at ending politically motivated gerrymandering in North Carolina.
That sounds like an amendment worthy of everyone’s support.
— Greensboro News & Record