NC NAACP Taking Constitutional Amendments Case to NC Supreme Court

RALEIGH, N.C. – The North Carolina NAACP today announced it will take its case to invalidate two Constitutional amendments to the North Carolina Supreme Court and appeal a North Carolina Court of Appeals decision.  The NC NAACP is represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, Forward Justice, and Attorney Irving Joyner in this matter.

Today’s appeals court decision came after the North Carolina General Assembly appealed a February 22, 2019, decision by Wake County Superior Court that ruled with the NC NAACP plaintiffs and voided two constitutional amendment proposals – imposing a photo voter ID requirement and lowering the state income tax cap. The lower court reasoned that the amendments were invalid because they were placed on the 2018 ballot by an illegally racially-gerrymandered General Assembly, which lacked “popular sovereignty” and did not represent the people of North Carolina. The sweeping unconstitutional racial gerrymander fatally tainted the three-fifths legislative majorities required for constitutional amendment proposals to be submitted to the people for a vote. That decision was stayed by the Court of Appeals while the court reviewed the matter on appeal, leaving the Amendments in place.

There was no unanimity in today’s ruling.  The Court issued three separate opinions, including one in dissent which noted that our state’s constitution is the “fulcrum which permits the lever of our State’s justice to move mountains” and that “altering that document . . . strikes deep into the heart of our democracy” and  should be taken with great care and caution.”

Rev. Dr. Spearman, President of the NC NAACP, said on behalf of Plaintiffs: “We are thrilled to bring this historic case to the Supreme Court of North Carolina to ensure that the people’s voice is heard and that the foundational principles of our democracy and our Constitution is preserved and protected. Let it be crystal clear: the Court of Appeals decision today changes nothing about the coming election. No photo voter ID will be required in 2020. The requirement of Photo Voter ID in North Carolina is prohibited in 2020 and until there is a full trial, based on a finding of this same Court and by a Federal Court that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted its voter ID law with illegal racially discriminatory intent. The road to justice is not a straight line, but we will not rest until it is won.”

Kym Hunter, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center explained: “At stake here is the fundamental legitimacy of our state constitution. For as long as our constitution has had a provision for amendment, it has required a three-fifths supermajority of both the state House and Senate to approve a potential change before taking the question to the voters.  The legislative defendants’ argument to ignore this critical safeguard and allow a supermajority that lacks a claim to popular sovereignty essentially rewrites our core foundational document. Their attempt to allow a racially gerrymandered supermajority to lock-in their narrow agenda should be forcefully rejected.”

Daryl Atkinson, Co-Director of Forward Justice explained: “The ruling from the Court today is a stop on the way to justice. We are swiftly moving forward with this fight because the General Assembly of North Carolina does not have unchecked power to transform the foundational document of our state that they acquired illegally through discriminatory means. We believe that ultimately, this case will represent a defining moment for North Carolina’s democracy—placing a limit on what rewards a General Assembly may count on which uses illegal racial gerrymandering to seek to entrench its own power.”

Attorney Irv Joyner said: “Today we were heartened by the strength of the dissent in support of our position, and we believe that that logic and sentiment will ultimately prevail. As Constitutional Law professors, a former Supreme Court Justice, and many others who weighed in in support of our position agreed, and Judge Rueben Young eloquently explained, there must be and there is a stop-gap against illegal usurpation of power in North Carolina’s Constitution.”

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 About the N.C. NAACP

Founded in 1939, the NC NAACP is part of the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its branches throughout North Carolina are premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and discrimination. www.naacpnc.org

About Forward Justice

Forward Justice is a nonpartisan law, policy and strategy center dedicated to advancing racial, social, and economic justice in the U.S. South. Our work catalyzes success for social movements and expands opportunities for people affected by injustice.  www.ForwardJustice.org

About the Southern Environmental Law Center

For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With more than 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

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