Let’s Talk About Some of the Amendments on the November 6th Ballot
By Ian Morris
Comment below, or reach attorney Morris directly firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @IMorrisOne.
If last week’s amendments enshrining victims’’ rights and a right to hunt and fish were the bait; this week’s amendments are the hook. Amendments proposing to change the way judicial vacancies are filled and change the way members are appointed to the Bipartisan State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement are political rifle shots aimed at limiting the powers of the governor and empowering the legislature under the auspice of nonpartisan collaboration.
For the most part I agree. The judicial appointment amendment asks voters if they are for or against a –
Constitutional amendment to implement a nonpartisan merit-based system that relies on professional qualifications instead of political influence when nominating Justices and judges to be selected to fill vacancies that occur between judicial elections.
Full text here.
This is the most controversial of all the proposed amendments and has received predominantly negative coverage. Essentially the amendment would allow the General Assembly to develop “merit commissions” at the state and local levels (cash register sound) that would make recommendations to fill judicial vacancies in a non-partisan way based on whether or not the replacements were qualified or not. These two recommendations would then go forward to be chosen by the governor. Should the governor refuse the choice, the General Assembly will select by majority vote.
Facially this amendment isn’t too bad and to me it does describe a fairly non-partisan way to select mid term replacements, but why is it necessary? The constitution as intend vests this power in the governor. Proponents of this amendment argue that sometimes the appointment by a sitting governor is political and while this may be true, I don’t think it warrants changing the current balance of powers at the state level. I also accept that the amendment as written seems fair but neither I nor anyone in Raleigh can be sure that this will actually function as intended. Specifics on what metrics this merit commission would use to judge judicial candidates and how they themselves would remain apolitical, remain unclear.
Because it is a transparent and unnecessary limitation on the governor, I will be voting no here.
Many consider our next amendment an equal attempt at limiting the power of the state’s chief executive, as the General Assembly has asked us to consider if we are for or against a –
Constitutional amendment to establish a bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections to administer ethics and election laws, to clarify the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches, and to prohibit legislators from serving on boards and commissions exercising executive or judicial authority.
Full text here.
This is another one that is a seemingly fair way to handle the issue but as above, the issue isn’t really bad enough to amend the constitution and further limit the powers of the governor. I am equally suspicious because this amendment would disenfranchise the largest growing voter affiliation (unregistered) and nakedly benefit the entrenched powers.
Currently issues revolving state officials and violations relating to elections or ethics are investigated by a twelve-member commission with each major party selecting six members, four of which are chosen by the governor, who also selects an unaffiliated person to serve on the board. Ultimately the nine member board will have 4 members from each major party and a single member that is unaffiliated.
Yes, it is a little messy but I really hate two things about this proposed amendment, it ends with an even number leaving a high potential for partisan splits and worst of all, it further disenfranchises the independent or unaffiliated voters by removing them from the process entirely. I am a solid no here as well.