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Gerry Cohen points out veto loophole in judicial constitutional amendment

Gerry Cohen worked for the legislature for decades, and knows a thing or two about constitutional amendments.

He filed an affidavit to a three-judge panel on behalf of the North Carolina NAACP and the Southern Environmental Law Center in its lawsuit over misleading ballot language associated with four constitutional amendments.

While he didn’t speak in court Wednesday — there were no witnesses — his name was mentioned several times throughout, as was his affidavit. In some of the document, he explains his political background and professional experience, and in most of it, he outlines the flaws associated with the ballot language for the four amendments in question: voter photo identification, tax cap and two related to a separation of powers power grab.

Cohen, through the process of naming the issues also highlights a little known part of the judicial vacancy sunshine amendment: a veto loophole. Essentially there is language that indicates a bill recommending or appointing a judge may contain “other matters” that may not be subject to the gubernatorial veto.

Some lawmakers tried to fix the loophole, it was never voted out of a rules committee. Cohen points out in the affidavit that the veto loophole is not mentioned in the ballot question for the judicial vacancy amendment — which would essentially just transfer power from the Governor to the legislature.

Parties to lawsuits over constitutional amendment ballot language are awaiting a decision from the three-judge panel. Ballot printing, which was supposed to begin today, is on pause until Sept. 1 pending an order from the panel or an appellate court.

Read Cohen’s full affidavit below.

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