North Carolina Governor Vetoes 2 Election Bills Affecting Midterms

by | July 30, 2018 AT 5:55 PM

By Will Doran and Paul A. Specht

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has vetoed the two bills the Legislature passed earlier this week that would affect November's midterm elections.

"Legislative Republicans want to roll back checks and balances in order to pick their own judges and put special interests in charge of education, voting, clean water and more," Cooper said in a press release announcing the vetoes. "Republican legislators are shamefully attempting to mislead voters in order to undermine our state's constitution and weaken the separation of powers between the branches of government."

One of the bills revoked the authority of a state commission to write short captions for the six proposed constitutional amendments that will be on the ballot this fall.

The other bill would keep a Republican candidate, Chris Anglin, from having his party affiliation on the ballot even though the other two candidates -- Democrat Anita Earls and Republican Barbara Jackson -- would have their party affiliations beside their names. The N.C. GOP has labeled Anglin "the enemy" and suggested he is secretly a Democrat trying to split the Republican vote.


GOP reaction

Republicans had defended the two new pieces of legislation earlier this week when they came back to Raleigh for a surprise session to pass the bills. Lawmakers gave the public less than 24 hours advance notice about the session and passed both bills within a matter of hours on Tuesday, after changing rules so they could fast-track the process. Democrats objected to the rule changes to no avail.

And on Friday, N.C. GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse criticized Cooper for vetoing the bills.

"To me, it's further proof that he's always only interested in politics and not in governing," Woodhouse said. "A fair question to ask the governor is, 'What's wrong with how the ballot questions are being presented to the voters?' There's nothing deceiving about it."

The bill called for labeling each of the six proposals simply as "constitutional amendment" without a number or a title. Instead each will include a brief description previously written by Republican legislators that Democrats have said are misleading.

Cooper's vetoes do not necessarily mean he will be able to stop the bills from becoming law.

Republican legislators hold veto-proof majorities in both the N.C. House and Senate, and have successfully overridden nearly all of Cooper's vetoes so far in his first 18 months as governor. And on Friday, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger sent out a joint statement saying they intended to do just that.

"The governor's outlandish claim that labeling proposed constitutional amendments as 'Constitutional Amendments,' and conforming the filing requirements for judicial candidates to every other public office in the state, is somehow "rigging the system" is a poor attempt to protect political gamesmanship by his party," the legislative leaders wrote. "We will override these vetoes to deliver clear and consistent voter information on ballots this November."

The Legislature could vote to override the vetoes as soon as Monday.

There are time pressures for state officials to print the ballots for this November's elections. Elections officials want all ballot information finalized by Aug. 8. They have to have the ballots ready by Sept. 7, which is when absentee-by-mail voting begins.


Constitutional amendments

The six proposed amendments cover various topics, some more controversial than others.

One would create a new voter ID law -- replacing the 2013 law that was struck down as unconstitutional in federal court for targeting African American voters with discriminatory intent -- and another would lower the cap on how high the state's income tax rate can be.

Two amendments would take away the governor's power and give those powers to the Legislature -- one concerns judicial vacancies and the other appointments to boards and commissions.

Another amendment would give crime victims additional rights, and another would protect the right to hunt and fish.


Supreme Court race

The bill that affects the race for a state Supreme Court seat didn't target Anglin by name; it instead targeted any judicial candidate who had switched parties within 90 days of entering an election.

Anglin was a Democrat until shortly before switching to the GOP and entering the race, although he has repeatedly maintained that he is a legitimate conservative candidate.

(c)2018 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)