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Thursday September 29th

N.C. voters adopt four, reject two of the constitutional amendments

<p>Voters cast their ballots at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School on Tuesday.</p>
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Voters cast their ballots at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School on Tuesday.

North Carolina voters have approved four controversial amendments to the North Carolina Constitution, raising questions about the future of laws in the state.

The two remaining amendments, including one amendment that would alter the way judicial vacancy appointments are filled and one that would change the makeup of the Board of Elections, were voted down by North Carolinians. 

The first amendment grants the right for people to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife and upholds traditional methods for hunting and fishing as a means of managing wildlife. These "traditional methods" are not defined. 

The second amendment grants greater protections to victims of crime upon request. Currently, the North Carolina Constitution guarantees eight rights to victims. 

The amendment would add seven more, such as the right "to be treated with dignity and respect" and to be given "information about the crime, upon request." The amendment would cost the justice system $11 million per year according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections. 

The third amendment reduces the state income tax cap from 10 percent to seven percent. However, it will not change the current income tax rate of 5.4999 percent  or the corporate tax rate of 3 percent.

The fourth amendment requires voters to present photo identification at polling places. It would not affect absentee voting. The legislature must make laws defining what constitutes a valid form of photo identification after now that the amendment has passed.

Though the amendment passed, not everyone is happy about it.

“The last time North Carolina enacted a photo ID requirement for voting, lawmakers designed restrictions that a federal court found targeted Black voters ‘with almost surgical precision,'" Karen Anderson, executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement. "When the lame duck General Assembly convenes to decide how to fill in the blanks of this new restriction, nothing short of the future of voting rights in North Carolina will be on the line."

Two amendments did not pass.

The fifth amendment would have changed how judicial vacancy appointments are made. Currently, the governor chooses a replacement if a judicial officer leaves before their term ends. The amendment gives the legislature the power to select two or more nominees from which the governor can choose from. 

If the governor does not appoint someone within 10 days, the legislature has the power to elect one of the nominees. With the amendment, appointed officials would serve up to four years before facing election. 

The sixth amendment removes the ninth, nonpartisan member from the State Board of Elections and Ethics and gives the legislature the power to appoint the other eight members to the board. Passage of the amendment would have overturned a 2017 North Carolina Supreme Court decision stating that the legislative appointment of board members is unconstitutional. 

The eight members, four Democrats and four Republicans, would be appointed by the leaders of the political parties within the legislature. 

Five former North Carolina governors publicly opposed the fifth and sixth amendments, which did not pass. 

“The rejection of these two amendments shows that voters strongly believe in our state government’s separation of powers and do not support extreme power grabs by state legislators bent on rigging the system in their favor," Anderson said. 

Some voters, such as Ron West of Hillsborough, felt the wording of the amendments was vague and difficult to understand. 

"Why is it vague? Why was one convoluted?” he said. “All seemed like they were good things. I feel like anyone who would read them would automatically assume they are good.”

Other Orange County residents echoed these concerns.

"The amendments were written in a way that would have thrown me had I not done my research," said Marisa Marraccini, a Hillsborough native. "They were not representative of what they were actually about.”

Christy Bridges of Hillsborough said the large amount of amendments on the ballot surprised her. 

"You don't lightly amend the constitution," she said. 

@henryhaney17

city@dailytarheel.com

Mayla Gilliam, Marin Wolf and Lyell McMerty contributed reporting.

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