The North Carolina Constitution was written in 1776 — a big year for the state and the country and its original 13 states. It hewed closely to the original document, which set the template for a new nation.
We wrote another one in 1868, another big year in the United States, to conform to the new normal after the Civil War — and also because we had seceded from the union and needed to get our house in order before we could be readmitted.
More than 100 years later, in 1971, we had to rewrite it again to reflect the growing complexity of governance. In that edit, voters had approved five of six new amendments by ballot referendum. The one they didn’t go for was a repeal of the literacy test required by state voters.
Now state lawmakers have another six amendments poised for the ballot in November; two of them have already cleared all legislative hurdles and will be put before voters: a hunting and fishing bill written by the NRA and a victims rights amendment that basically replicates existing state law.
The others, similarly, come from a wish list of the modern Republican Party and its funders: combining our ethics and elections board into a single entity; delegating the power to fill judicial vacancies away from the governor and to the legislature, further reducing the efficacy of the position; maxing out the state income tax at 5.5 percent; and the plum of the group, a voter ID amendment that, when it was passed as part of an omnibus state law, has been repeatedly shot down by federal judges.
But a constitutional amendment is different. For one, if the voter ID amendment makes it to the ballot, Gov. Roy Cooper cannot veto it. And when federal judges overturn it for being illegal, again, GOP lawmakers can point to “activist judges” who go against the will of the people of North Carolina.
But the real point of this and all the other amendments is to drive Republican turnout in the fall, when Republicans across the state and country must face accountability for what they’ve wrought.
Here in North Carolina, they’re hoping that our electorate is the same one that voted against banishing the literacy test in 1970.
Sometimes that seems like a pretty safe bet.