The Republican state legislature is under attack from the mainstream media for meddling in the 2018 elections by holding a special meeting on Tuesday, July 24 and changing two election laws.
Changing laws concerning elections in July before a November election could be called meddling, but one question that needs to be answered is who started meddling first.
The big issue that caused the Republican leaders to call a special session is the six constitutional amendments on the ballot. Up until Tuesday, when the law was changed, the amendments commission made up of Democrat Attorney General Josh Stein, Democrat Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Republican Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble were charged with writing captions or short descriptions to go on the ballot for each constitutional amendment.
The law passed by the legislature changed that and there will be no short description. The items on the ballot will read “Constitutional Amendment” with the wording of the proposed constitutional amendment below. Voters will have to read at least some of the proposed constitutional amendment to find out which one they are voting on.
The six proposed constitutional amendments are to require voters to present photo identification before voting, set the maximum state income tax at 7 percent (it is currently 5.5 percent), give the legislature more power in filling judicial vacancies, give people the right to hunt and fish, add rights for the victims of crimes and change the way that the State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement is appointed and give the power to the legislature to appoint the members of about 400 boards and commissioners. The governor currently gets to make those appointments.
The reason that the legislators went running to Raleigh is because the captions have to written by August 8 and they hadn’t been written yet. You might say that the commission still had plenty of time to write the captions and make the deadline, and that is true. But the very fact that the captions hadn’t been written sent a message that the Democrats were up to something.
If the commission met on August 6 or August 7, as was reportedly going to happen, and wrote highly partisan captions, the Republicans would have no time to change them. If the Democrats were not up to something, why hadn’t the commission written its short description about each constitutional amendment and gone to the beach like everyone else in North Carolina does in the summer?
From the statements made by the Republican leadership, it appeared they received information that the two Democrats on the commission planned to take advantage of the power they had to hamper the passage of the constitutional amendments.
The second reason was that the Democrats outsmarted the Republicans in the single North Carolina Supreme Court race on the ballot in November. There was no primary in this race, so whoever filed goes on the ballot with their political party affiliation. The Republicans added the political party affiliation for candidates for Supreme Court justice after Republican Justice Bob Edmunds lost his reelection bid to Democrat Mike Morgan in 2016. The party affiliation for judges was on the ballot for years until the Democrats, when they were in power, removed it because the voters of North Carolina had decided they liked Republican judges better than Democrats. With the party affiliation removed it made it easier to get Democrats elected. The Republicans changed it back for the same reason. North Carolina voters still prefer Republican judges, so adding the party affiliation generally helps Republicans and hurts Democrats.
In the 2018 race for the Supreme Court, there were two candidates running, Republican Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jackson and Democrat Anita Earls, who had been head of the far left legal interest group Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which has regularly sued the Republican-led legislature.
What the Democrats apparently did, which is politically astute, is found a loyal Democrat who would change his party affiliation to run as a Republican and split the Republican vote, theoretically giving Earls, who is far to the left of most North Carolina voters, a better chance to win.
Politically it is a brilliant if not somewhat sneaky move, and it was legal under the law until the legislature went to Raleigh on Tuesday and changed it.
The legislature changed the law so that a candidate cannot change his or her party affiliation within 90 days of filing, which means Chris Anglin, a personal injury attorney, who was running as a Republican will have to run as unaffiliated.
The moves by the legislature can certainly be characterized as meddling in the election, but the meddling was done because the Democrats were meddling first. For Anglin to change his party affiliation and run as a Republican was legal when it was done – sneaky but legal. But the Republicans control the legislature with veto-proof majorities in both houses, so the Republicans had the power to go back and set things right and they did.
It will be surprising if Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper doesn’t veto both bills, forcing the legislature to come back and override the vetoes.
In fact, the legislature is still in session because – adding more politics to the mix – when the legislature is in session, the governor only has 10 days to decide whether to veto a bill or not. If the legislature is not in session the governor has 30 days. So the Republicans want Cooper to go ahead and veto the two bills, if he is going to, so they can override the vetoes and go home.
In the Guilford delegation, the Democrats in the state House Representatives – Reps. Pricey Harrison, Amos Quick and Cecil Brockman – voted against the bills and the Republicans – Reps. Jon Hardister, John Faircloth and John Blust – voted in favor of the amendment bill. Blust didn’t vote on the bill involving the judicial race.
In the state Senate, Democrat Sen. Gladys Robinson was absent. Republican Sen. Phil Berger voted in favor of both bills and Republican Sen. Trudy Wade voted against both.