NC judge strikes down voter ID and income tax cap amendments based on gerrymandered legislature

On February 22, 2019, Judge Bryan Collins of the Wake County Superior Court in North Carolina ruled that two constitutional amendments—Voter ID Amendment and Income Tax Cap Amendment—passed on November 6, 2018, were invalid. The ruling resulted from a lawsuit launched by the NC NAACP and Clean Air Carolina, which argued that since some lawmakers were elected from districts that a federal court ruled were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, the existing legislature was a usurper legislature and could not refer constitutional amendments to the ballot.
Judge Collins, agreeing with plaintiffs, said, “… the unconstitutional racial gerrymander tainted the three-fifths majorities required by the state Constitution before an amendment proposal can be submitted to the people for a vote, breaking the requisite chain of popular sovereignty between North Carolina citizens and their representatives. … Accordingly, the constitutional amendments placed on the ballot on November 6, 2018 were approved by a General Assembly that did not represent the people of North Carolina.”
Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the NC NAACP, responded to the ruling, stating, “We are delighted that the acts of the previous majority, which came to power through the use of racially discriminatory maps, have been checked. 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, and we applaud the court for invalidating these attempts at unconstitutional overreach.” Senate President Berger (R-30) also responded, saying, “We are duty-bound to appeal this absurd decision. The prospect of invalidating 18 months of laws is the definition of chaos and confusion. Based on tonight’s opinion and others over the past several years, it appears the idea of judicial restraint has completely left the state of North Carolina.”
The Voter ID Amendment received 55 percent of the vote in November. The ballot measure was designed to require that voters present a photo ID to vote in person. In the General Assembly, the amendment was referred along party lines; Republicans voted for the amendment and Democrats voted against it.
The Income Tax Cap Amendment received 57 percent of the vote. The ballot measure was written to lower the maximum allowable state income tax rate from 10 percent to 7 percent. The amendment was referred mostly along party lines; three Senate Democrats joined Republicans in supporting the amendment and one House Republican and two Senate Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the amendment.
Voters approved two other constitutional amendments: (1) a right to hunt and fish amendment and (2) a Marsy’s Law crime victims rights amendment. These were referred to the ballot by the same general assembly but were not directly affected by the ruling since they were not targeted by the lawsuit.