Carolina Jews for Justice joins progressive partners across the state in opposing the six proposed amendments to the state constitution, to be voted on in 2018. In addition to each amendment’s individual flaws, the lack of education and transparency leading up to the vote goes against our core value of democratic rights. Changes to our constitution should be preceded by widespread public education with a thorough explanation of the reasoning behind each amendment. Though the full text of these amendments is available publicly, when voters enter the polls they will see only summaries written by our General Assembly representatives, summaries that clearly encourage a vote for the amendments. Among Maimonides seven qualities of leadership are humility and honesty. Yet our General Assembly has the chutzpah to try and fool the public with the dishonest summaries that will appear on the ballot. Even if we agreed with the reasoning behind these amendments, our Jewish and democratic values would compel us to oppose the limited education and explanation surrounding this vote.
Voter ID: The voter ID law originally passed in our state was struck down by the Supreme Court. Under a guise of opposing extremely rare voter fraud, requiring ID will only serve to limit access to the polls, especially for low-income voters who may have trouble getting an ID. CJJ will always oppose any measure that could limit access to the polls, and this proposed amendment is part of an ongoing attempt to damage voting access, especially for voters of color.
Two Amendments to Reduce the Governor’s Authority over the Board of Elections and Judicial Vacancies: These two amendments masquerade as progress, but in reality erode the checks and balances of our government to heavily favor the General Assembly. We were impressed by the unprecedented gathering of all five living former governors, two Republicans and three Democrats, to oppose this power grab by the NCGA. We follow their lead in opposing both of these amendments.
Cap the State Income Tax: Hand in hand with our General Assembly’s disdain for funding a robust education system and healthcare, this is a poor choice for the future of our state. If this amendment is in our constitution, future lawmakers seeking funds will need to turn to more regressive taxes like sales and property taxes, which more heavily impact the poor over the rich.
Victims’ Rights: This amendment is unnecessary, as our state Constitution already has an extensive list of crime victims' rights. Moreover, if the Legislature is serious about implementing all of the rights required either in current law or under the proposed amendment, it could cost millions of dollars, money that would better be spent on other investments in our criminal justice system, including the full implementation of the recently passed Raise the Age legislation for our juvenile court system.
Right to Hunt, Fish, and Harvest Wildlife: There is no current threat to these traditional activities. Removing the ability of future lawmakers to sensibly regulate where and how North Carolinians hunt or set traps feels shortsighted, and could have impacts on gun laws, public safety, and environmental preservation.
Ultimately, CJJ is unsure why any of these laws are important enough to preserve in the state constitution, long past the terms served by our current elected representatives. For one set of elected officials to seek to so permanently alter our state’s government and rule of law is a long term power grab that ignores our democratic process. In the Talmud, a story is told of Moses appointing a leader for the Children of Israel. First, Moses simply goes to God, saying that if the chosen leader is good enough for God, he should be good enough for the people. But God insists Moses ask the people anyway. We know that our Jewish and democratic values encourage transparency, humility, and honesty from our elected officials. The vote for these six amendments shows none of these qualities.