Judge rules North Carolina legislature illegitimate

“Epic can of worms”: a North Carolina judge has ruled that because of racially gerrymandered districts the state’s lawmakers have no legitimate authority to propose amendments to the state’s constitution. The effect is potentially to nullify two amendments that the state’s voters approved in November, one on voter ID and one on capping state income taxes. [Alan Greenblatt, Governing]

But wait: wouldn’t declaring a legislature illegitimate mean nullifying a lot of legislative actions that are pleasing to progressives, such as funding and expanding the public sector in various ways? Conveniently, it seems Wake County Superior Court Judge G. Bryan Collins has not signaled any willingness to strike down decisions made by a simple legislative majority, which would therefore be regarded as legitimate and allowed to stand. Gerrymanders, of course, do have a direct influence on whether a legislature adopts measures subject to simple majority vote, even as they do not have a direct influence on whether voters approve or do not approve a constitutional amendment for which balloting is statewide.

It will be curious to see whether this opinion stands up on appeal, even at the North Carolina Supreme Court, which I understand has issued some strenuously progressive rulings in recent years.

2 Comments

  • If this stands I’d expect some enterprising people to file suit to invalidate all legislative actions since the last redistricting (2011 or so I assume), including invalidating all state budgets and demanding that all taxes over the last decade be refunded.

  • The constitutional amendments required vote of the citizens, which is free of districtcting or gerrymander issues. The amendment process did arise through legislative vote, but were subject to direct democracy. So the amendments would seem to be the most legitimate actions to have occurred during that time.
    If anything is to be thrown out, it is the actions of the legislature that was merely at the statutory level. Even that was subject to potential governor veto, and the governor was directly elected in a process that too was not subject to districts/gerrymander effects.
    This should be interesting to watch.

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