Originally in The Daily Tar Heel
October 31, 2018

The amendments on the North Carolina ballot are misleading and detrimental, according to a panel the UNC Institute of Politics held on Oct. 29.

The panelists included: N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein, retired N.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr, Allan Freyer, an economist and the director of the Worker’s Rights Project at the N.C. Justice Center and Professor Irving Joyner, who teaches law at North Carolina Central University and focuses on criminal and civil rights legislation.

There has been conflict over the presentation of the amendments on the ballot, Stein said. Although Stein did not support Gov. Roy Cooper’s second lawsuit, he still feels the descriptions are not accurate. 

“It’s like being told that you are buying candy, and you go home and you are eating cat food,” Stein said. 

Everyone on the panel disliked the first proposed amendment, the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife, for its ambiguity. 

Joyner referenced the view of minorities who have experienced persecution perpetrated or unchecked by the government.

“When we start talking hunting or fishing, we’re not sure if it’s hunting animals or hunting us," Joyner said.

The victims' rights amendment, also called Marsy's Law, was a topic of debate among the panel. 

Orr said this is a legitimate proposal, and it is the only amendment he voted for. Stein plans to vote for the amendment. 

The third amendment, a seven percent cap on North Carolina's income tax rate, provoked a strong response from Freyer. He said it misrepresents the amendment as a tax cut when it is a tax cap, as the current individual tax rate is 5.499 percent. 

He also said during the next recession, this cap would burden the middle and lower classes. 

Though Orr disagreed with Freyer’s reasoning, he also voted against the amendment. 

“I’m not sure this is a pro-millionaires amendment,” Orr said. 

The amendment requiring photo identification to vote was the longest and most involved of the discussions. Stein said he was frustrated that the proper forms of identification would be determined after the amendment passes. 

Joyner drew on racial history to explain why he believed the law was unfair. 

“I grew up during Jim Crow, when there was widespread discrimination in this state,” Joyner said.

Joyner said during the Jim Crow era, Black Americans were restricted from hospital access, so births happened at home and were recorded in the family Bible.

No birth certificates were given for these births, which could make acquiring a photo ID like a license difficult. 

Joyner and Orr debated the actual impact of voter fraud. While Joyner alleged only four or five cases in the last 10 years, Orr disagreed. 

Voter fraud occurs at a rate of 0.003 and 0.0025 percent.

The panel said the fifth amendment regarding judicial vacancy appointments was a power grab.

Orr said this amendment was a partisan issue, being an attempt by the Republican supermajority to reclaim power from the Democratic governor.

“Consistently, all the governors have done their best to appoint qualified judges for those vacancies,” Orr said. 

The panel said the sixth amendment, which removes the nonpartisan and ninth member from the Board of Ethics and Elections and gives the legislature much of the control on the appointment of its members, is begging for gridlock, the speakers said. 

Joyner said with an even distribution between the two major parties, decisions would end up tied. 

The panel overall had a negative view towards the ballot measures.

“Not the most balanced panel — at least in our perception of these amendments,” Orr said.