Updates from the July 24th Special Session
House Bill 3 would limit public knowledge and understanding of proposed amendments.
Today, a bill was filed and introduced known as “House Bill 3” titled “Ballot Designations/Referenda.” The sole purpose of the bill was to eliminate the power of a commission currently composed of Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, a Democrat, Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, and Paul Coble, a Republican who’s in charge of legislative services at the General Assembly, from writing a brief caption or synopsis of each of the six constitutional amendments that will appear on the ballot in November’s General Election. This means that the public will not have any context or understanding of these amendments. As it currently stands, the language that will appear relating to each constitutional amendment is vague, obscure, and, in many instances, disguises the true purpose and intent of each of the constitutional amendments. Therefore, voters could be persuaded and misled into voting for an amendment because they are worded in a way that might lead someone to believe that they were a good idea. This type of intentional voter deception is problematic and unfortunate. The true purpose of these amendments is for the Republican majority to do messaging around them that will increase the turnout of their base voters in November.
The Republican majority is afraid that, without these constitutional amendments on the ballot to drive out their base, Democrats have an excellent opportunity to break the Republican supermajority and to potentially take the majority in this year’s General Election. I hope that voters will be smart enough not to be persuaded by these type of tactics. Two of these amendments are specifically targeted at undercutting the authority of Governor Cooper and future governors to appoint persons serving on over 400 boards and commissions as well as appointing judges in our state in a manner in which it has been conducted for decades. This is why former governors, both Republicans and Democrats, are opposed to the idea of amendments curtailing the power of our governor, which is already weaker than many states.
Senate Bill 3 will impact Judicial Candidates in Upcoming Election
In addition to House Bill 3, there was also another bill introduced today known as Senate Bill 3, which passed the Senate. The primary purpose of Senate Bill 3 was to eliminate Republican competition in the race for the North Carolina Supreme Court. Justice Barbara Jackson, who is a Republican serving on the court, is being challenged by Anita Earls, who is a Democrat, and announced her candidacy early this year after the Republican majority made judicial races partisan. Anita was well-regarded and respected as an attorney due to her successful challenges of laws enacted by the General Assembly that were determined to be unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering. Last year, the Republican majority also eliminated judicial primaries, therefore, it was possible for more than one Democrat or more than one Republican to seek positions at the same time in the General Election.
When the judicial filing period opened in June, Christopher Anglin announced that he was seeking a seat on the NC Supreme Court as a Republican. This would’ve meant that two Republicans were both running for the same seat that Anita Earls, a Democrat, was running for which would have likely increased her chances of winning. Therefore, today, Senate Bill 3 was introduced which was specifically targeted at Christopher Anglin, since he was previously registered as a Democrat before he decided to run for a seat on the NC Supreme Court. Senate Bill 3 essentially states that a candidate who changed his party affiliation within 90 days of filing for office would not be listed as running as a Republican or as a Democrat, or even as an Independent. The person would have no party affiliation next to their name, or they would be allowed to withdraw from the race altogether.
During debate on the floor of the Senate, it was clear that this was the purpose of Senate Bill 3, even though the bill theoretically applies to all judicial candidates in the State of North Carolina. When I asked today in the Rules Committee whether the bill sponsor or any person with our State Board of Elections could identify how many candidates would be impacted by this bill, no one could provide a number, and the only person identified was Christopher Anglin. During debate on the floor today of the Senate, another candidate in Wake County was identified as potentially being impacted by this bill as well.
I ran an amendment today that would require the State Board of Elections to provide notice to all judicial candidates of this new law via e-mail, telephonic communications, written notice, or by other electronic means as expeditiously as possible. This amendment was adopted as a part of the bill. Hopefully, if there are other candidates impacted, then they will find out how this bill impacts them in an expedient manner. It is absolutely wrong and unconscionable to change an important rule of this type after the filing period for a position has opened and closed simply because the General Assembly is not happy with the party affiliation of the candidates who had filed. I am positive that if two Democrats were seeking the position on the NC Supreme Court and only 1 Republican had filed, then we would not have been brought back to change the law. Please, this is one further reason why we must come out this November and vote to take back our state and to change the makeup of the North Carolina General Assembly.