North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature has a pretty low opinion of the intelligence of the state’s electorate. GOP representatives and senators seem to think they can pull the wool over voters’ eyes this fall by letting them vote on a set of amendments to the state constitution that are being sold as an opportunity to make government more democratic.
The six proposed amendments we’ll probably see as referendum questions in November are either red flags designed to draw more Republicans to the polls, or attempts to undermine the fundamental division of powers in the state. I’m hoping the voters prove they’re smart enough to see these hairbrained schemes for what they are.
The most troubling is an amendment that would effectively transfer the governor’s power to make appointments to state boards, such Elections and Ethics, but also the Board of Transportation, the Utilities Commission, and the Environmental Management Commission. The amendment is touted by the GOP as targeting only the Elections and Ethics panel (a bad idea by itself), but it has much broader application than that.
Section 2 of the proposed amendment would change Section 6 Article I of the Constitution to say:
“The legislative powers of State government shall control the powers, duties, responsibilities, appointments, and terms of office of any board or commission prescribed by general law.
There’s a good reason why governors typically handle such appointments. Unlike the House and Senate, the governor is elected by a state-wide poll, which means he represents the entirety of the state. Thanks to nth-degree gerrymandering, the House and Senate do not even come close to representing the voting preferences of the people of the state. It’s a large part of why we have governors (and a president) in the first place. If this amendment is approved, the governor’s office will be demoted to figurehead status in just about every situation except states of emergency. Handing the assemblies all of the powers involved in running government and enacting laws was rejected 200 years ago and it should be rejected today.
The GOP claims (despite jurisprudence to the contrary) that the General Assembly already has the power to make appointments and they’ve just been nice enough to let the governor take care of them for the last couple of centuries. But of course, if that were true, there’d be no need for a constitutional amendment, would there?
There was one problem, though. It wasn’t going to be easy convincing registered Republicans to show up to a mid-term polling station by appealing to a sophisticated desire to re-allocate constitutionally assigned duties of governance. But give them the chance to vote for things like a requirement that all voters identify themselves with a government-issued photograph, and entrench the right to hunt and fish as a way of life in the constitution and now we’re talking about a real chance of enthusiastic voting.
Never mind that the courts have consistently ruled that voter ID is just a ploy to reduce turnout about voters unlikely to elect Republican candidates, and the fact that voter fraud is practically non-existent.
And never mind that the number of North Carolinians who hunt and fish “as a way of life” is close enough to zero so as to make no difference. Hunting and fishing are, to be sure, respectable activities. In some aspects, they are more environmentally and ethically responsible ways to put food on the plate than shopping at Ingles or Harris Teeter. Some communities in Alaska derive most of their protein and calories from hunting and fishing, but not so much around here, for obvious reasons. There’s a big difference between passionately pursued hobbies and “a way of life,” and it’s insulting to those who actually do live off the land with the help of guns and rods to conflate the two.
There are more foolish amendments to worry about. But that’s enough outrage for now.