Judges Pause Ballot Printing To Consider Wording Of Proposed Amendments

Aug 15, 2018

North Carolina state flag.
Credit Mr. TinDC / Flickr

A panel of judges ordered state elections officials not to print ballots for the November election, as it considers whether North Carolina's Republican-dominated legislature is trying to fool voters with the wording of proposed amendments to the state constitution.

A lawsuit filed by Gov. Roy Cooper targets two amendments that would reduce the governor’s powers, and give legislators more control over state boards, commissions and some judicial appointments.  

John Wester, an attorney for the governor, said during the hearing Wednesday that the current wording of the ballot questions does not come close “fairness and integrity.”  

“If North Carolina is not going to do anything to prevent the General Assembly from tricking the voters — which is what these two ballot amendments do — then what will be left of us?” Wester asked.

Martin Warf, an attorney for Republican legislative leaders, told judges that North Carolina’s constitution gives lawmakers the task of designing proposed constitutional amendments.

“It does not say the proposal shall be submitted at the time and in the manner prescribed by the governor, and it actually does not say the proposal shall be submitted at the time and in the manner prescribed by the court,” Warf said. “It says the General Assembly.”  

Wednesday’s hearing was streamed by WRAL in Raleigh. 

The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement said it needs to have the matter settled soon in order to meet deadlines for preparing absentee ballots.