The independent news organization of Duke University

Judge strikes down two of NC's constitutional amendments

Two of North Carolina’s more controversial amendments that voters approved in November have been struck down by a judge. 

On Friday, Wake County Superior Court Judge G. Bryan Collins struck down the amendment that required voters to show identification and another that set a cap on income tax, citing the "unconstitutional racial gerrymander" of the General Assembly. Both amendments passed with more than 55 percent of the vote, according to the News and Observer.

The General Assembly passed six proposed amendments to appear on the November 2018 ballot, but Collins argued in his ruling that since the Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that the "General Assembly was an illegally gerrymandered body," it consequently "lost its claim to popular sovereignty." The Supreme Court had struck down the maps that elected many representatives that proposed the amendments.

"An illegally constituted 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,” Collins wrote in his ruling.

Collins did not discard the other two amendments that passed, which established a constitutional right to hunt and fish and expanded crime victims' rights. Two of the six amendments proposed did not pass in the election—amendments regarding judicial vacancies and the Ethics and Elections Board.

N.C. NAACP president Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman said in a release that Collins' ruling checks the actions of those who gained power via "racially discriminatory maps," according to the News and Observer.

"The prior General Assembly’s attempt to use its ill-gotten power to enshrine a racist photo voter ID requirement in the state constitution was particularly egregious," Spearman said. "We applaud the court for invalidating these attempts at unconstitutional overreach."

N.C. Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes told the News and Observer that Collins' ruling should be overturned. 

“These amendments were placed on the ballot and passed by an overwhelming majority of North Carolinians,” Hayes wrote. “This unprecedented and absurd ruling by a liberal judge is the very definition of judicial activism.”

There is little evidence of voter fraud as a significant trend—just two cases of voter impersonation were found statewide in a 2016 election audit conducted by the N.C. State Board of Elections. A federal appeals court previously struck down a N.C. voter ID requirement in 2016, finding the legislation “restricted voting and registration” in a way that “disproportionately affected African Americans.”

Comments