The North Carolina NAACP, Democracy North Carolina, ACLU of North Carolina and North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections held a Raleigh news conference Monday to unveil their "By The People" campaign, which includes community events, grassroots organizing and paid advertising. Radio ads featuring state NAACP president Rev. T. Anthony Spearman have started airing, campaign leader Melissa Price Kromm said.
Two amendments would swing powers historically held by the executive branch - which Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper leads - toward the Republican-dominated General Assembly when it comes to judicial vacancies and the state elections board. Another would enshrine a photo identification to vote in person after previous voter ID legislation was vetoed or struck down by federal courts.
"'By The People' is committed to making sure the people of North Carolina hear the truth about these amendments," Kromm said in front of the Legislative Building. "Ultimately, our state constitution enshrines the most important protections for our freedom, for our rights, for our liberties, and the legislature has declared war on it."
A separate group called "Stop Deceptive Amendments " also has started running a TV ad, committee treasurer Michael Weisel said Monday. The group's website lists Common Cause, North Carolina League of Conservation Voters and the N.C. Association of Educators as "partner organizations."
No similar pro-referendum group has yet emerged, save for one that is focusing alone on an amendment to expand the rights of crime victims. The "Marsy's Law for North Carolina" movement says it's preparing to spend $5 million to help pass the crime victims' amendment. Other ballot amendments would inscribe a right to hunt and fish and lower the maximum income tax rate that can be levied from 10 percent to 7 percent.
The General Assembly agreed in June to submit the amendments to voters in the fall. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the state NAACP sued to challenge some of the questions, saying they didn't match what the constitutional alterations would actually do. Judges blocked two of the questions, but the legislature returned for a special session in August to redo those questions and their related proposals. The courts then allowed them to remain on the ballots.
The "Stop Deceptive Amendments" ad appears to focus on the judicial vacancies and election board questions without identifying them by name, saying they could strip the courts of independence permanently and create obstacles for political corruption investigations. But the group's website expresses opposition to all six. "The closer you look at these misleading amendments, the worse they get," the ad narrator says. "Vote no."
Republicans have defended the amendments and related questions as understandable to the public and popular. The Voter ID concept has consistently polled well with the public. GOP leaders have said Cooper and his allies don't like some amendments because they would take power from him.
Cooper is opposing all six amendments as well, saying some are unnecessary and the lack of details from lawmakers about how they'd be implemented concerns him. The state Democratic Party also opposes all six. The "By The People" group emphasized Monday it wasn't affiliated with any candidate or party.
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