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NC lawmakers consider three constitutional questions to put on November's ballot

A voter exits the Wayne County Public Library after casting their ballot during early voting in Goldsboro Friday morning October 21, 2022.
Jonathon Gruenke
A voter exits the Wayne County Public Library after casting their ballot during early voting in Goldsboro Friday morning October 21, 2022.

A state Senate committee approved three constitutional amendments Thursday to add to the ballot in November.

All three of the proposed amendments wouldn't have any immediate practical effect, because the proposals match the current state law. All three could help boost Republican turnout in November.

One would change the current constitutional language requiring voter ID to note that photo IDs are also required to vote by mail. Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, is sponsoring the proposal.

“North Carolina voters have already chosen to enshrine a voter ID standard in our state constitution,” Newton said, “and current state law already requires absentee by mail voters to provide a copy of their ID while voting.”

Another amendment would lower the constitutional cap on the income tax rate from 7% to 5%. That's still above the current tax rate but could block future lawmakers from raising taxes.

That change would follow a 2018 constitutional amendment that lowered the tax cap from 10% to 7%. The current personal income tax rate is in the process of dropping from 4.5% this year to 3.99% starting in 2026.

The third amendment would add a ban on non-citizen voting to the constitution, another policy that's already in state law. That amendment is similar to one sponsored by House Speaker Tim Moore.

Ann Webb of the advocacy group Common Cause North Carolina criticized the amendment, saying it’s “driven by conspiracy theories about noncitizen voting that are rampant in our politics today and are designed to tear our voters apart. … It's already a felony in North Carolina to even encourage a noncitizen to register to vote.”

Thursday’s action adds the other two amendments to the noncitizen voting amendment. Moore said he’s supportive of the voter ID amendment, but he’s not sure if his chamber would support the lower income tax cap.

“I want to take a look at the income tax amendment,” he said. “We're going to need a (Republican) caucus (meeting). That's going to be one of those where every single member of the caucus would have to agree to be a yes, because you have to have 72 votes.”

The proposed amendments could get both House and Senate votes next week, as lawmakers gear up to take a summer break.

"The constitution is something that's a little harder to change for future legislatures," Senate leader Phil Berger said Thursday. "We think it's appropriate for the people to weigh in on whether or not they would like to have their constitution read something similar to what we've proposed."

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.