Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

NAACP files appeal to state Supreme Court; federal court rules for Constitution Party on ballot; NCGA might hold special session

The North Carolina NAACP filed an appeal this morning to have the state Supreme Court reverse a three-judge panel’s decision to allow two constitutional amendments to move forward to the November ballot.

The Superior Court panel issued a 2-1 decision yesterday that two amendments dealing with the separation of powers would be struck from the ballot but that two amendments dealing with voter identification and an income tax cap could proceed.

Gov. Roy Cooper and the NAACP, along with Clean Air Carolina, filed lawsuits challenging the ballot language for the four amendments, alleging the questions would mislead voters.

Lawmakers could also appeal the decision with regard to the two amendments judges struck from the ballot, but they have not done so yet.

House GOP lawmakers reportedly held a conference call this afternoon to consider a special session Friday to redraft language for the two amendments the judges blocked, which would mean they could bypass an appeal to get them back on the ballot. If they were to draft new language, it would require 72 passing votes in the House and 30 in the Senate — then it would skip the Governor’s desk and go straight back to the ballot.

The three-judge panel has already stated in its order it does not want to oversee the redrafting process.

Lawmakers have filed a notice of appeal in the state court case they lost over a week ago that will allow two judicial candidates to appear on the ballot with party labels despite a retroactive law requiring a 90-day registration period. There have not, however, been any other documents filed beyond the notice, and there are not any hearings set in the case.

In another separate case related to the November ballot, a federal court has now ruled against the legislature and is allowing Constitution Party candidates who lost the primary registered with a different political party to appear on the November ballot.

The Party and three of its members — James Poindexter of Surry County, Jerry Jones of Greene County and Gregory Holt of Craven County — filed suit last month in U.S. District Court for the eastern district of North Carolina against the Kim Westbrook Strach, Executive Director of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

The State Board officially recognized the Constitution Party in June, and until then, its candidates did not have ballot access. Prior to official recognition, North Carolinians also could not register for affiliation with the Party. Because of that, Poindexter and Jones ran for election in the primary as Republican candidates and the Holt ran in the Democratic primary. They all lost.

After the Constitution Party was recognized and held its nominating convention, they submitted Poindexter, Jones and Holt as candidates to the State Board. They were accepted and certified. Lawmakers then passed a “sore loser” law preventing anyone who lost in a primary election from being on the ballot in November (Senate Bill 486).

Judge Louise Flanagan ruled that the plaintiffs suffered harm to their constitutional rights, and defendants offered no argument or evidence of injury to the rights of voters or the state other than a generalized concern that granting plaintiffs’ motion “will likely serve to delay the production of those ballots,” “particularly in the districts plaintiffs wish to run.”

“However, defendant has yet to print the ballots at issue and returning the parties to the same position that they were in on June 19, 2018, after defendant had accepted the plaintiffs as candidates for the Constitution Party of North Carolina and prior to the enactment and enforcement of S.L. 2018-13, is in the public interest as well as favors plaintiffs with regard to the balance of equities,” the judge wrote.

Read the NAACP appeal and the Constitution Party order below.

Petition for Supersedeas Motion to Bypass Motion for Stay (2) by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

Constitution Party Order by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

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