Sometimes I struggle with the fact that this is an education-focused blog, because our state (and our country) are facing so many issues that seem inextricably intertwined with educational issues, and to focus strictly on education means telling only part of the story. This is particularly true in the case of the upcoming election, where North Carolinians are being asked to restructure our state constitution in some significant ways. There are six amendments on the ballot this election, and according to the News & Observer, many of us aren’t even really aware that those amendments exist, much less the very high stakes involved in the changes we’re being asked to make.
So, with your indulgence, for my next several posts, I’ll be writing about each of the amendments and about why I think all six of them should be voted down. But first, I’d like to take the opportunity today to set out where I’m coming from on the NC Constitution and why I think it shouldn’t be messed with. [Fair warning — of necessity, these next several blog posts will mention the fact that these amendments are being driven by the actions of the current NCGA majority party, which happens to be the Republicans. I will have to ask you to trust me that if the same actions were being undertaken by Democrats, I’d be just as angry.]
I understand that Constitutions are living documents — their framers, both on a federal on state level, were human beings subject to the same foibles and failings as any other human beings. So it’s a good thing that we can change these documents when it becomes clear that such change is necessary: to right wrongs, to make explicit human rights that had been merely implied; to deal with circumstances unforeseen by the framers.
That said, Constitutions are (or should be) serious documents, and changes to them should be undertaken with exquisite care. When we use amendments to affect the fundamental rights of others, or to provide a short-term political boost to one party over another, we demean not only the document, but ourselves as citizens. And when we seek, as is the case this year, to undertake a radical restructuring of the balance of power on which our entire government rests, then we must do it darned carefully.
Which brings me to my first objection to this set of amendments: the process by which they were placed on the ballot was rushed, opaque, and marked with dishonesty and political skulduggery. The laws putting them on the ballot were introduced mere days before they were voted on; no meaningful hearings were held, and members of the minority party — the party that represents millions of North Carolina voters — were excluded completely from the process. The amendment language itself is, in most cases, both misleading and confusing, and the NCGA held a special session to make sure that the bipartisan board that could have provided clearer captions for each amendment would no longer be allowed to do so. The unmistakable conclusion is that this General Assembly wants North Carolinans to be confused. They want us not to know exactly what we’re voting for. And that is unconscionable.
Tune in tomorrow, when we’ll be talking about separation of powers and how two of the amendments would alter that separation significantly. But if you can’t wait until then and want more info now, please check out www.nixallsix.com. There’s a bunch of information there, too.