Labor Day is the traditional kickoff of the fall campaign season, and if the pre-season commercials are any indication of what is to come, it’s going to be a rough campaign season.
Kicking off a campaign with attack ads is unusual, but it appears that’s par for the course in this election.
Up until this week, it was uncertain whether the congressional elections would go forward in the current districts. The federal District Court here in Greensboro had ordered the districts be redrawn before the November election. Fortunately for all involved, the court reconsidered its decision apparently after consulting a calendar.
The districts were approved by the federal courts for the 2016 election and there is only the congressional election in 2020 before the districts will be redrawn after the 2020 census for the 2022 election, and then it seems the whole process will start all over again.
It also wasn’t until this week that the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled against Gov. Roy Cooper, who was challenging the constitutional amendments that take some of the governor’s power away and gives it to the legislature.
Cooper seems to enjoy suing the legislature and it’s about the only legislative influence Cooper has since the Republicans have veto-proof majorities in the House and the Senate.
Despite what you might read elsewhere, the goal of the Democrats in the state House and Senate elections is to win enough seats to overcome the veto-proof majorities.
Anything is possible in elections, but the odds of the Democrats taking control of either house is extremely slim.
But if Cooper could veto bills, like the budget, and have that veto stick, it would make a huge difference. So the Republicans are fighting to keep those majorities and the Democrats are trying to pick up enough seats, at least in the House, to make that veto-proof majority go away.
But with all of the legal issues settled we now know what is going to be on the ballot. Or we have reason to think we do. If a federal court thinks it has the power to order districts be redrawn in August before a November election, there is no telling what they might try next.
It’s no secret that the Republicans put the constitutional amendments on the ballot in an attempt to increase Republican voter turnout. And since this is an off year election, where the only statewide race is for a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court (a race that few people follow), voter turnout is likely to be dismally low.
In elections with low voter turnout, the party that can get the most people to the polls usually wins. Since the Democrats are still all fired up about the 2016 election, where the news media convinced nearly everyone that Hillary Clinton was going to be the next president, the Republican leadership felt it had to do something to attempt to fire up its base. Complacency is deadly in politics.
As they go, the constitutional amendments aren’t earthshattering. The most controversial is probably requiring voters to show photo identification before voting.
Polls show that most North Carolinians are in favor of voter ID and it is not a radical idea. The fact that 33 states already have some form of voter ID makes North Carolina in the minority by not having it.
If there is virtually no voter fraud – as the Democrats who oppose voter ID claim – then having to show some identification to vote shouldn’t change much. If there is a lot of voter fraud then voter ID should end much of it.
I refuse to believe that voter ID is racially discriminatory because I don’t believe that more black people than white people don’t have photo identification and I haven’t seen any statistics that prove that assumption is true.
If it’s an economic issue, as Rev. William Barber likes to point out, most of the poor people in this state are white.
I talked to District 59 State Rep. Jon Hardister about the constitutional amendments because some seemed a little obtuse.
For instance, making it a constitutional right to hunt and fish doesn’t seem to be that big an issue. Hardister said that without the constitutional amendment the right to hunt and fish in the state could be taken away by a simple majority vote in the legislature, and there are people who are in favor of outlawing hunting and fishing because they want to protect the fish and wildlife.
He said it didn’t seem too likely now, but that in the future it could become a controversial issue.
Hardister said that the main focus of the victims of crime constitutional amendment was to ensure that victims of crimes had access to information and can testify if they so desire. It is based on Marsy’s Law that became a part of the California constitution in 2008 and gives victims legal standing in the courts.
Lowering the income tax cap to 7 percent, from 10 percent, is an easy one. The current state income tax is 5.5 percent and will drop to 5.25 next year, and the state has a budget surplus of about $300 million.
Hardister said that each quarter of a cent represented $500 million in revenue, so capping it at 7 percent still gives the state plenty of room to increase taxes if it becomes necessary.
The Republicans have found that lowering the personal and corporate income tax results in more revenue, so, if they get back in control, the Democrats might want to try it and have more money to spend.
Hardister said that he believed the constitutional amendment changing the way judges are appointed when there is a vacancy was a better method.
That may be true but it is also the legislature taking away some of the governor’s power. It gives a commission with appointments from the executive, legislative and judicial branches a say in who is nominated. The governor still gets to make the appointment but he can only appoint one of the candidates nominated by the commission. Under the current law the governor can pretty much appoint anyone he wants.
Being appointed gives that person a big advantage when running for election, because incumbents usually win. But it’s obvious why Cooper doesn’t like it.
The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has been through the courts several times lately. It, too, is appointed by the governor but the current set up is four Republicans, four Democrats and one person who is a member of neither party.
The constitutional amendment would have the speaker of the House and the president pro tem of the Senate making the appointments, but no more than four can be from any one political party. It would also eliminate that one person who is in neither party and it would be an eight-member committee.
Hardister said that, as on most committees, it would take a majority vote to pass a motion, so it would require bipartisan support; a motion that has a tie vote doesn’t pass. So to get anything accomplished on the board, the two parties would have to work together, which doesn’t sound like a bad thing.
Hardister has been in the legislature for six years and is currently the House majority whip, which is the number three leadership position. He says being whip isn’t as mean as it sounds and his main job is to find out how Republicans plan to vote on bills – in other words, count votes.