Commentary, Defending Democracy

Scathing N&O editorial: Constitutional amendments shouldn’t be “a lie”

One of the best of many powerful editorials to condemn the General Assembly’s absurd constitutional power grab hit the internet this afternoon.

In “The NC ballot shouldn’t be a puzzle. Or a lie.”, the editorial board of  Raleigh’s News & Observer is right on point. After describing the vitally important court challenge that Gov. Cooper and a pair of advocacy groups have brought, the authors offer this outstanding conclusion:

“Voters would be puzzled by these amendment questions at the end of a long ballot, but [House Speaker Tim] Moore and [Senate President Pro Tem Phil] Berger welcome that confusion. They assume a majority of voters will support one change that ends ‘political influence’ on judicial appointments (although it transfers that influence to the legislature) and another that is modestly described as clarifying existing law (even though it greatly weakens the governor and upends the balance of legislative and executive powers).

In court documents, lawyers for Moore and Berger contend that lawmakers can write the ballot wording any way they like. They say: ‘… creation of the language for the ballot is textually granted by the Constitution to the General Assembly. Thus, a semantic debate about the language used for the ballot question is for the halls of the General Assembly, not the briefs and arguments of counsel in Court.’

Even if the wording is confusing or misleading, the defendants’ brief says, voters can dig deeper and determine what the change is really about. ‘Plaintiff does not give voters enough credit,” it says. “Voters can read the text of the proposed amendments and determine the effect for themselves.’

This is Mad Hatter stuff. A ballot question proposing a constitutional amendment shouldn’t be a riddle. Or, even worse, a lie. The judiciary and executive branches and members of the public have a right to demand that amendment questions put before voters be clearly expressed and honest about the impact of the changes proposed.”

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