The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), on behalf of Clean Air Carolina and the NAACP, filed suit today against North Carolina Speaker of the House Tim Moore, Senate Pro Tempore Phil Berger, and the State Board of Elections in Wake County Superior Court. The lawsuit challenges the legislature’s efforts to place four state constitutional amendments on the ballot this November that would radically restructure the government and significantly erode the separation of state powers.
The legislature’s unprecedented effort to take state powers from the Governor and the courts is part of a broader effort by the North Carolina supermajority, which was found by the U.S. Supreme Court to be illegally gerrymandered last year, to maintain control of state politics. Breaking with precedent, the legislature seeks to abandon nonpartisan ballot descriptions of the proposed amendments, arguing in favor of misleading captions designed to confuse voters.
“This is a critical moment for North Carolina’s future,” said June Blotnick, Executive Director of Clean Air Carolina. “If the legislature is successful in its power grab it will have dire consequences for citizens in the voting booth, for our communities and the air we breathe, and for our basic democratic institutions. This is not our typical lawsuit but the proposed ballot measures would impact our ability to fulfill our mission by limiting the voice that North Carolinians have in state policy, particularly on urgent environmental issues.”
“This legislature has carried out extraordinary attacks to strip fundamental clean air and clean water protections that North Carolinians have been assured of for decades, breaking with our state’s long history of bipartisan support for environmental safeguards, ” said Derb Carter, director of SELC’s North Carolina offices. “At the moment we are poised to re-establish fair representation that will accurately reflect voters on environmental issues, they have attempted a desperate and unlawful power grab.”
“The supermajority’s proposed amendments to the North Carolina constitution represent the greatest threat to our state’s democratic institutions since the Civil War,” said NC NAACP President Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman. “Misleading voters to seize power is not only a dangerous threat to our state’s future, it is also illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court limited the powers of this unconstitutional, gerrymandered legislature, and so the legislature must be stopped from carrying out this extraordinary attack.”
NC GOP Has Dismantled Longstanding Clean Air and Water Standards
Since establishing a supermajority, North Carolina lawmakers have dismantled longstanding clean air and water safeguards and gutted funding for state environmental programs and agencies – despite growing voter demands on issues ranging from opposing offshore drilling to cleaning up coal ash and GenX pollution. Now, as the state is poised to have representation that more accurately reflects the needs of voters, the legislature is trying to thwart the will of voters and the courts to consolidate power.
The plaintiffs are seeking a hearing early this week for an immediate temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop these proposals from appearing on ballots set to be printed on August 8, 2018.
Read the press release.