N.C. Court of Appeals overturns ruling on voter ID and tax cap constitutional amendments

In a 2-1 ruling, the N.C. Court of Appeals reinstates constitutional amendments passed by voters

Judges at the NC Court of Appeals taken September 2019. Photo via NC Court of Appeals website.

RALEIGH — The N.C. Court of Appeals has ruled for the reinstatement two voter-approved amendments, a requirement of voter ID and a state tax cap of 7%, to the state constitution.

There were six amendments on the ballot in 2018 and four passed. The voter ID amendment passed by 55.49% of the vote and the 7 percent state tax cap amendment passed with 57.35% of the vote.

Judges Chris Dillon, Donna Stroud and Rueben Young each weighed in separately in the ruling, with Dillon authoring the main opinion. Young was the dissenting vote.

“We conclude that the superior court erred in holding that our General Assembly lost its power granted by our state constitution, while retaining other powers, simply because a federal court had determined that the maps contained too many majority-minority districts, such that some members elected to that body were from districts that were illegally gerrymandered based on race,” wrote Dillon in the conclusion.  “It is simply beyond our power to thwart the otherwise lawful exercise of constitutional power by our legislative branch to pass bills proposing amendments.”

The 2-1 ruling overturns Judge Bryan Collins’ 2019 decision that invalidated the amendments based on the idea that the legislature was elected through an illegal gerrymander and should not have been able to even put the amendments on the ballot.

The Court of Appeals ruling rejects Collins’ assertion that the “General Assembly lost its claim to popular sovereignty,” stating that “If there was a loss of popular sovereignty by our General Assembly, then all the laws passed by that body would be subject to attack, thus creating chaos and confusion.” 

The opinion also notes that not all of the six amendments passed in 2018 were struck down and drew a comparison to budget writing. The ruling notes that “True, the process for a constitutional amendment differs from the adoption of a bill or a budget, but if the General Assembly lacked authority to pass a bill for submission of a constitutional amendment to the voters, it surely lacks authority to pass other bills as well.”

The ruling duly cites Collins’ 2019 ruling almost “exclusively” relied on the Covington v. North Carolina case, which Stroud called out in her majority support.

Stroud writes that the Covington “does not support that trial court’s conclusion that the General Assembly elected in that case had no de jure or de facto authority” to pass bills that proposed constitutional amendments “or any other legislation.” She wrote that that Covington failed to conclude members of the legislature were “usurpers” and adding that “there is no North Carolina law to support the trial court’s legal conclusions.”

About A.P. Dillon 1292 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_