Court: Cooper, NAACP can’t fast-track amendment challenges
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s highest court rejected late Wednesday requests by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and a civil rights group to hear immediately challenges to a pair of constitutional amendments that Republicans rewrote earlier this week.
The state Supreme Court issued a flurry of one-sentence orders that basically prevent Cooper and the state NAACP from fast-tracking challenges of the two new amendments by tacking them on to their current lawsuits against previous versions of the amendments.
A three-judge panel last week prevented those earlier versions from going on the November ballot, ruling their associated questions for voters didn’t adequately explain the potential changes to the state Constitution. But the Republican-dominated General Assembly held a special session to approve two new amendments somewhat similar to the previous ones, and rewrote their questions.
The amendments, if approved by a majority of voters, would shift power from the governor to the legislative branch by giving the General Assembly control over Cooper’s choices to fill judicial vacancies and in picking members of the state elections board.
With time dwindling before November ballots must be finalized and printed, Cooper and the NAACP asked the justices if they could use their old lawsuits to challenge the new questions. The court said no.
The governor and NAACP now may have to decide between filing new lawsuits in Wake County court that specifically challenge the updated amendments or give up and let the referendums go on the fall ballot.
A Cooper spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a text seeking comment. Kym Hunter, an attorney representing the NAACP and an environmental group that sued, said Wednesday she was still talking to her clients about their next steps.
The justices may have opened the door for Cooper and the groups to resume their legal fight by issuing a separate order Wednesday night blocking the state elections board from preparing ballots until ordered by the court. Otherwise, the state Attorney General’s Office told the justices in a brief that elections officials needed a resolution by Saturday to get ballots printed on time to comply with federal law.
Republican Rep. David Lewis of Harnett County, the sponsor of the bills containing the updated amendments, tweeted late Wednesday that Cooper should “stand down and let the people vote. It’s time to stop playing games.”
Four other amendments — those addressing photo identification to vote, capping the income tax rate, expanding crime victims’ rights and enshrining the right to hunt and fish — are also on the November ballot. The NAACP and Clean Air Carolina also have tried unsuccessfully to date with their lawsuit to block the photo ID and income tax questions as well.