News: Quick Takes

Wake judge tosses voter ID and tax cap amendments, blames ‘usurper’ legislature

A Wake County judge has thrown out N.C. constitutional amendments requiring photo identification for voters and lowering the cap on the state’s income tax rate.

Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins ruled the amendments were unconstitutional because, in his view, the legislators who placed it on the ballot were “usurpers,” elected illegally. Collins noted the legislative districts in which the General Assembly members ran were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court because the court ruled the maps relied too much on race in their design.

“Thus, 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,” Collins wrote.

As a result, he said, the constitutional amendments put on the ballot “were approved by a General Assembly that did not represent the people of North Carolina,” and were invalid.

Collins went further, saying “[a]n illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina. …”

He said invalidating the two amendments and the enabling legislation associated with them would not cause “chaos and confusion.”

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, disagreed. Taken to its conclusion, every law passed by the legislature elected in 2016 could be considered unconstitutional, Berger said in a statement.

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.”

Legislative leaders vowed an appeal.

“I am legitimately concerned about the future of our state and country with opinions like this abomination. One man with a political axe to grind invalidated millions of votes and potentially dozens of laws, including the state budget. Two million voters decided to add voter ID to their state constitution, but one Democrat on a power high is invalidating their will,” said Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, chairman of the Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee.

“It appears that no court in the history of the United States has ever declared a state legislature to be an illegal body,” a statement from Berger’s office said.

The lawsuit was filed by the NC NAACP and Clean Air Carolina, a Charlotte-based liberal environmental group. An earlier court ruling said CAC lacked standing.

Collins was elected in 2012 to Superior Court with 51.9 percent of the vote.