Another day, another stay: Supreme Court considers intervening in constitutional amendment litigation

The state Supreme Court issued a temporary stay Wednesday preventing the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement from preparing November ballots while it considers intervening in the North Carolina NAACP’s lawsuit over proposed constitutional amendments.

The organization initially filed a lawsuit over four of the six proposed constitutional amendments  — two that would interfere with separation of powers (transferring gubernatorial appointment authority to the General Assembly), one that would cap the income tax and another that would require a photo identification to vote.

A lower court blocked the amendments dealing with separation of powers but allowed the other two to proceed to the ballot, and the NAACP appealed and asked the state Supreme Court to get involved. Lawmakers also appealed to the state Court of Appeals, but then rewrote the two amendments and withdrew their motion. The NAACP expanded its request for Supreme Court review in a motion filed this morning to include the re-written amendments.

A short time later, the high court released its temporary stay.

Gov. Roy Cooper has also asked for the high court to intervene despite prevailing in his litigation over the two constitutional amendments that would have altered the separation of powers. Like the NAACP, his attorneys have expanded their request for Supreme Court review to include the rewritten constitutional amendments.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same,” the request states. “The events of the past few weeks have followed a pattern that has become all too familiar in our State in recent years.”

The document is referring to the special session in which lawmakers passed new constitutional amendments. Cooper maintains that the amendments, though scaled back, are still unconstitutional.

“This pattern of doubling down on the manipulation of election outcomes ‘call[s] into question the General Assembly’s commitment to enacting constitutionally compliant, non-discriminatory election laws,'” the document states. “The General Assembly has repeated this same sad pattern by adopting new ballot questions that are less egregious, but still unconstitutional — rendering it necessary for the courts to stop these new questions from appearing on the November 2018 ballot.”

The Supreme Court has not yet intervened in Cooper’s case.

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