RALEIGH, N.C. – The North Carolina NAACP today announced it will take its case to invalidate two Constitutional amendments to the North Carolina Supreme Court and appeal a North Carolina Court of Appeals decision. The NC NAACP is represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, Forward Justice, and Attorney Irving Joyner in this matter.
Today’s appeals court decision came after the North Carolina General Assembly appealed a February 22, 2019 decision by Wake County Superior Court that ruled with the NC NAACP plaintiffs and voided two constitutional amendment proposals – imposing a photo voter ID requirement and lowering the state income tax cap. The lower court reasoned that the amendments were invalid because they were placed on the 2018 ballot by an illegally racially-gerrymandered General Assembly, which lacked “popular sovereignty” and did not represent the people of North Carolina. The sweeping unconstitutional racial gerrymander fatally tainted the three-fifths legislative majorities required for constitutional amendment proposals to be submitted to the people for a vote. That decision was stayed by the Court of Appeals while the court reviewed the matter on appeal, leaving the Amendments in place.
There was no unanimity in today’s ruling. The Court issued three separate opinions, including one in dissent which noted that our state’s constitution is the “fulcrum which permits the lever of our State’s justice to move mountains” and that “altering that document . . . strikes deep into the heart of our democracy” and should be taken with great care and caution.”
Rev. Dr. Spearman, President of the NC NAACP, said on behalf of Plaintiffs: “We are thrilled to bring this historic case to the Supreme Court of North Carolina to ensure that the people’s voice is heard and that the foundational principles of our democracy and our Constitution is preserved and protected. Let it be crystal clear: the Court of Appeals decision today changes nothing about the coming election. No photo voter ID will be required in 2020. The requirement of Photo Voter ID in North Carolina is prohibited in 2020 and until there is a full trial, based on a finding of this same Court and by a Federal Court that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted its voter ID law with illegal racially discriminatory intent. The road to justice is not a straight line, but we will not rest until it is won.”
Kym Hunter, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center explained: “At stake here is the fundamental legitimacy of our state constitution. For as long as our constitution has had a provision for amendment, it has required a three-fifths supermajority of both the state House and Senate to approve a potential change before taking the question to the voters. The legislative defendants’ argument to ignore this critical safeguard and allow a supermajority that lacks a claim to popular sovereignty essentially rewrites our core foundational document. Their attempt to allow a racially gerrymandered supermajority to lock-in their narrow agenda should be forcefully rejected.”
Daryl Atkinson, Co-Director of Forward Justice explained: “The ruling from the Court today is a stop on the way to justice. We are swiftly moving forward with this fight because the General Assembly of North Carolina does not have unchecked power to transform the foundational document of our state that they acquired illegally through discriminatory means. We believe that ultimately, this case will represent a defining moment for North Carolina’s democracy—placing a limit on what rewards a General Assembly may count on which uses illegal racial gerrymandering to seek to entrench its own power.”
Attorney Irv Joyner said: “Today we were heartened by the strength of the dissent in support of our position, and we believe that that logic and sentiment will ultimately prevail. As Constitutional Law professors, a former Supreme Court Justice, and many others who weighed in in support of our position agreed, and Judge Rueben Young eloquently explained, there must be and there is a stop-gap against illegal usurpation of power in North Carolina’s Constitution.”