Judge Rules NC Photo ID, Income Tax Amendments Are Unconstitutional

Feb 22, 2019

Two new amendments to the North Carolina are unconstitutional, a Wake County Superior Court Judge ruled Friday afternoon.

Judge Bryan Collins struck down the state’s new photo ID requirement to vote, as well as a cap placed on the state’s income tax.

He ruled that the state’s legislative maps are so gerrymandered that the General Assembly “does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s Constitution.”
 

The Southern Environmental Law Center and Forward Justice argued the case on behalf of the North Carolina NAACP.

Of the two amendments, photo ID was the most controversial. The Republican-controlled General Assembly wrote the implementing language for the amendment at the end of 2018, shortly for the GOP lost its veto-proof supermajorities in the House and Senate.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the implementing legislation, but the General Assembly overrode that veto.

Starting this year, North Carolina voters will need to show a photo ID to vote. There are more options available than a previous photo ID law, including many student IDs, as well as employee IDs issued by a state or local government.

Voters approved the photo ID requirement 55.5 percent to 44.5 percent.

But the NAACP has contended the current photo ID law will hurt minority voters. A previous photo ID law was struck down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals because it targeted minority voters with "surgical precision."

The income tax amendment caps the state income tax at 7 percent, down from a previous cap of 10 percent.

It passed with 57 percent of the vote.

The NAACP argued that the cap will help the wealthy and "disadvantage people of color" who depend on government services.

“We’re thrilled the court has made clear that our state’s core foundational document can only be amended when all people of North Carolina are properly represented,” said Kym Hunter, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, in a news release.

Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, said Tweeted that the ruling is "absurd and outside the bounds of any rational theory."

In a news release, Senate leader Phil Berger said the ruling "could throw the entire state into chaos, as every law passed since June 2017 – including the budget – is called into question."

There are currently two gerrymandering lawsuits in North Carolina.

Common Cause and the League of Women Voters have sued the Republican leadership over the state's Congressional map. That case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court March 26.

Common Cause and the North Carolina Democratic Party have sued the General Assembly over the state legislative map. That suit was filed in Wake County Superior Court and could be heard by the state Supreme Court, where Democrats have a majority.