North Carolina’s General Assembly is a bull in the china shop of democracy and the state Supreme Court should “disregard its outrage that the patrons and shopkeeper are upset,” according to a court filing in Gov. Roy Cooper’s constitutional amendment litigation.
Justices are expected to make a decision at any moment about whether two constitutional amendments can proceed to the November ballot after all parties to the Cooper case submitted their briefs to the court over the weekend. The high court already decided today it would not get involved in the NAACP’s request to review the photo identification and tax cap proposed constitutional amendments.
In response to Cooper’s filing, attorneys for lawmakers said the Governor was disparaging the General Assembly “as an oligarchy beset
on destroying the Constitution.”
“And [he] disparages the voters of North Carolina by indicating that they lack even a novice understanding of law, their Constitution, or the function of their government such that in order to be allowed to consider changes to the Constitution they must first by protected by the courts at the direction of the Governor,” lawmakers’ filing states.
Cooper won his first lawsuit over two constitutional amendments affecting the separation of powers that he alleged were misleading to voters. Lawmakers called a special session and rewrote the amendments.
The new amendments restructure the current State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement and enshrine the body into the constitution and also transfer judicial vacancy appointment power from the Governor to the General Assembly. Cooper amended his lawsuit to include the new amendments and went back to the lower court Friday. He lost that battle and immediately appealed it to the Supreme Court.
“The current General Assembly would like to alter the fundamental balance of power in our state,” the Supreme Court appeal states. “It is not content to make the laws. It also wants to control the execution and interpretation of the laws. It wants to do so by choosing those who execute and interpret the laws. And it is attempting to secure those powers for itself by amending the constitution without the people’s true consent — which is no different from taking the power to amend the constitution for itself.”
The people of North Carolina, the filing acknowledges, are free to amend their constitution as they see fit.
“But when they vote to do so, their constitution requires that they have a true and fair opportunity to know what they are doing,” it adds. “And that is the nub of this case. The General Assembly has devised ballot questions that fail to tell the voters that these proposed amendments would give the General Assembly the power to choose those who execute and interpret the laws.”
Lawmakers disagree that the ballot questions they crafted don’t accurately describe the amendments North Carolinians would be voting on.
“The ballot questions at issue identify the amendments which the voters are to consider for ratification or rejection; they are not patently and fundamentally unfair,” their filing states. “As such, they satisfy the standard applicable under North Carolina law. Furthermore, each of these ballot questions meets the standard that the trial court adopted, which is the same standard advanced by the [Governor] before this court. Neither ballot question is misleading.”
Read both full, lengthy filings below.