EDITORIAL: Illegal districts, illegal elections, illegal amendments

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Here at the end of the line, things hinge on something we’ve been saying in this space all along: How can we hold elections in districts that have been declared illegal? How can we validate any laws passed by people who have been elected in this manner?

On Friday, two of the most recent amendments to the state constitution passed last year by voter referenda — the voter ID bill and a cap on income taxes — were removed from the process by a Wake County superior court judge.

The state NAACP and Clean Air Carolina asked for summary judgment on a preliminary injunction of these two amendments, which must pass through a three-tiered process before becoming law. 

In his opinion, Judge G. Bryan Collins referenced the illegal districts that have held, more or less, since 2011, unlawful racial gerrymanders. From his opinion: “Curing this widespread and sweeping racial gerrymander required that over two-thirds of the North Carolina House and Senate districts be redrawn. Thus the unconstitutional racial gerrymander tainted the three-fifths majorities required by state Constitution before an amendment proposal can be submitted to the people for a vote….”

It’s important to note that just these two amendments came before the judge, but that his opinion effectively nullifies the other two that passed — a hunting and fishing amendment, and one about rights for victims of crimes — should any viable party choose to challenge them in court.

And it calls into question just about every single piece of legislation that our General Assembly has passed since 2011.

Surely the state GOP apparatus has some legal maneuvering in the works to challenge this ruling in the hopes of dragging it out even longer than it already has — remember, the first three-judge panel to find these districts to be illegal convened in 2016.

But with this move, the judiciary seems to be saying that enough is enough. And until our illegal districts are rectified, everything this General Assembly does will be called into question.

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