There are a lot of strange and confusing aspects to the story surrounding the slate of constitutional amendments that Republican legislators have placed on the November ballot. Here, however, is an especially weird and perplexing one: It turns out that Wesley Meredith, a Republican senator from Fayetteville opposes the Republican-driven amendment to alter how North Carolina would fill judicial vacancies. The amendment, as you will recall, shifts the lion’s share of the power in such matters from the Governor to the General Assembly.
As reported by the Fayetteville Observer Meredith made public his opposition to the amendment during a community forum the other day. He did it again earlier today in an interview with Policy Watch. In the interview, Meredith expressed the strong belief that the current system for electing judges and filling judicial vacancies via gubernatorial appointment works well and has worked well for years under both Republican and Democratic governors.
What’s especially noteworthy about Meredith’s stance on the issue, of course, is that he is a Republican and the amendment (which is widely recognized and derided by many as a Republican Party power grab) was passed by both houses of the General Assembly with almost exclusively Republican votes.
What’s even stranger is that one of those Republican votes was Meredith himself.
On June 25, Meredith voted “aye” on both second and third reading on the Senate floor to send the original version of the amendment (a measure misleadingly dubbed the “Judicial Vacancy Sunshine Amendment”) to the ballot.
That amendment was later declared unconstitutional by the state courts and rewritten during a hastily convened August special session that was held just weeks before the start of absentee voting. During the special session, Meredith again voted twice in favor of the new version of the proposal and three times in opposition to proposed Democratic efforts to amend the measure.
When pressed this morning for an explanation of the rather striking contradiction involved in publicly opposing an amendment that he himself had helped to place on the ballot, Meredith seemed to struggle. First, he observed that he had refused to sign onto the resolution in which the General Assembly called itself back into special session to rewrite the unconstitutional amendment. When asked however why he voted for the new and revised amendment once the session had been convened, Meredith claimed, that it was his (erroneous) understanding that if he had not done so, the original unconstitutional amendment would have somehow gone back on the ballot. He also claimed that he had sought to speak out on the matter in debate, but was not recognized by the presiding officer.
Meredith had less of an explanation and seemed flummoxed when asked about the original June vote. Instead of addressing the question directly, he instead observed that there had been a lot of confusing votes and discussions on judicial selection issues, reiterated his general support for the status quo and offered an apology if he had gotten any of the “dates” surrounding the matter mixed up.
The bottom line: If ever there was powerful indictment of all six constitutional amendments that appear on the ballot this fall, Meredith is it. Simply put, if a veteran state senator — a man who cast numerous critical votes to place the amendments on the ballot — is so deeply confused about the action he has taken that he both a) didn’t understand the impact of his own action and/or b) has done a 180 degree flip flop on one critically important amendment in just a matter of weeks, something is decidedly rotten in the state of Denmark.