An argument we have been making since 2018 has finally made it to the North Carolina Supreme Court. So by the end of the week — hopefully — we will have an answer to the question: Does an illegitimately elected General Assembly have the authority to amend the state Constitution?
The NAACP brought the suit against two amendments passed in 2018: a voter ID law, which the suit insists inordinately affects Black people, and the 7 percent income-tax cap, which also harms Black people they argue, because it starves the public school system for resources.
In its arguments, lawyers for the NC GOP have not denied these two accusations, which, taken in conjunction with the illegal racial gerrymander that created the Republican supermajority, constitute the heart of the matter.
As Chief Justice Anita Earls put it on Monday: “But don’t those findings of fact relate to the question of whether or not a General Assembly that was elected from districts that were found to be intentionally racially discriminatory against Black voters, should be able to pass constitutional amendments that also discriminate against Black voters?”
Martin Warf, lawyer for the party of states’ rights, argues “whether the legislature has popular sovereignty is political question,” which he says the highest court in NC does not have authority to resolve.
He does this while emphatically insisting that the architects of these bad districts were not “usurpers,” and that there is no effective difference between session laws and constitutional amendments.
It is perhaps the height of irony that this same court filed opinions on Monday about our current illegal districts, while still sorting out the damage done by the last ones.
And it’s almost surreal to see a lawyer make the case that his clients were within their rights to repeatedly disenfranchise Black voters and then use policy to make things harder for those same voters.
Meanwhile, the General Assembly has until Friday to draw new maps for the 2022 election, which begins with a primary in May, though there is always the chance that the US Supreme Court will intervene because that’s what they do now.
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