'Constitutional Amendment:' The two words provoking today's special session at the General Assembly

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Lawmakers returned to Raleigh on Tuesday for a special session to address an increasingly bitter partisan divide over how proposed constitutional amendments will appear on the November ballot.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Republican-led General Assembly passed a bill that would mandate each constitutional amendment. Each proposed constitutional amendment will appear on the November 2018 ballot with the caption above it: "constitutional amendment." The legislation, House Bill 3, passed along partisan lines and now heads to Governor Cooper's desk. Cooper is expected to veto the measure.

In actuality, the specific writing related to the amendment is already decided, which means this debate was about the caption or title that would appear directly above said proposed amendment.

For instance, one question to voters will read:


Constitutional amendment to provide photo identification before voting.

Current law requires a three-member commission to consider the caption above the question, which could either summarize the proposal or simply give it a label. The commission has been accepting public comments before an August deadline.

Several Republican leaders told ABC11 they were worried the commission - which right now includes two Democrats and one Republican - would politicize those captions to read something like "Voter Suppression Act."

"We are making clear that the voters on their ballot will have a clear description that they're voting on a constitutional amendment," Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett County) asserts. "Amendments to the Constitution is serious business, and we took a lot of time to write these amendments so that they will stand the test of time. We think voters understand it."

Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, fumed about the special session.

"These constitutional amendments from the beginning have been politicized," said NC Democratic spokesperson Robert Howard. "This is an election-year ploy for Republicans to bring voters to the polls and for Republicans to lock in some of the power that they know they're gonna lose in November."

In addition to Voter ID, the constitutional amendments voters will consider include a cap on income taxes, shifts in executive powers, a right to hunting and fishing, changes related to an election commission, and rights for victims of some crimes.

Also Tuesday, Senate Republicans filed another bill related to the 2018 General Election. Senate Bill 3 would require anyone filing as a candidate for an election to be a registered member of that party for at least 90 days. The proposed legislation appears to be directed at one specific race for the state Supreme Court, where there are two Republicans and one Democrat running. Republicans have lamented how one of the candidates had not been a registered Republican for long.