GOP leaders calling another special session to write new questions on proposed amendments

Friday, August 24, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Republican-led General Assembly will convene on Friday for yet another special session on proposed constitutional amendments, with GOP leaders signaling a desire to write new ballot questions to satisfy a court order.

In a news release, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said his colleagues remain committed to two proposed amendments, despite their appearance on the ballot being called "misleading" by a three-judge panel. If approved by voters, the amendments could drastically change the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

"The General Assembly will write new ballot referendums in compliance with the court's ruling because the proposals provide a popular bipartisan balance in our state government that will benefit the people of North Carolina who deserve a voice in considering reforms to their constitution," Moore said. "We hope this will end the unnecessary litigation and allow our state to move forward with the democratic process to let the people decide these issues for themselves."

Attorneys representing Governor Roy Cooper, and the Republican-led General Assembly, met in a Wake County courtroom Aug. 15 to argue before the panel of three judges on whether two proposed constitutional amendments are being presented to voters in a fair and accurate way.

"We appreciate the Court's thoughtful consideration of this case," said a statement from Cooper's office. "Misleading voters about the true impact of amendments that threaten our fundamental separation of powers is wrong, as the ruling recognizes. We're pleased that the court agrees the people of North Carolina deserve accurate information and a real opportunity to express their opinions about proposed changes to our Constitution."

Despite his own opposition to the proposed amendments, the core argument of Governor Cooper's case is about how the proposed amendments will appear on the November ballot in questions posed to voters. The two amendments challenged by Cooper are slated to appear as follows:


Constitutional amendment to implement a nonpartisan merit-based system that relies on professional qualifications instead of political influence when nominating Justices and judges to be selected to fill vacancies that occur between judicial elections.


Constitutional amendment to establish a bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections to administer ethics and election laws, to clarify the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches, and to prohibit legislators from serving on boards and commissions exercising executive or judicial authority.

Adding to the urgency of the suit, the five living former governors of North Carolina filed a brief supporting Cooper. The unprecedented move follows the group's historic news conference on Aug. 13 announcing their own bipartisan opposition to the proposed amendments.

Republicans are filing appeals in their care about the original ballot questions, but time is limited before an approaching deadline to certify ballots and ensure federally-mandated 45 day period for voters to send back absentee ballots.

"One thing I've learned is to let courts go through the process. Our staff, we've already tentatively re-adjusted our own schedules," Gary Sims, Director of Elections in Wake County, explained to ABC11. "The first day that we had planned on sending them out was the seventh of September. If it does go with the federal requirements, the 45-days in, that looks like it would be the 22nd."