As we often say, we can’t have a healthy environment without a healthy democracy. Unfortunately, on top of its attacks on clean water protections are special provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the state budget which would make it harder for many North Carolinians to exercise their freedom to vote.
- The state House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tempore would be authorized to intervene in any court case challenging a state law. That would effectively strip the state Board of Elections (SBE) and Attorney General of their ability to settle lawsuits against discriminatory voter suppression laws. The same legislative leaders who passed unconstitutional voting restrictions could appeal and delay every court decision striking them down all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In voting rights cases, justice delayed is justice denied, since elections are often in progress shortly after anti-voting laws are passed, and legislators delay action to limit opponents’ window for litigation and judicial remedy.
- SBE would be stripped of its power to investigate and rule on state election and campaign finance violations. Currently, SBE has a special investigations division with staff experienced in election laws. Eliminating that investigatory authority is part of anti-voter legislative leaders’ ongoing effort to take authority away from North Carolina’s independent, bipartisan SBE.
- New limits on the governor’s authority to issue executive orders responding to emergencies would hinder his or her ability to keep elections running smoothly during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
- The budget contains $5 million to implement the racially discriminatory voter photo identification requirements. These laws are currently still under court injunction because of their discriminatory effects. This would continue legislators’ efforts to erect barriers to voting.
Other items that are effectively voter-suppression provisions are included in either the House or Senate version of the budget, and therefore available for inclusion in the final version still to be negotiated by members of a House-Senate conference committee.