NC voters OK voter ID, tax cap, crime victims, hunting amendments
North Carolina voters have approved constitutional amendments that will lock in recent state income tax cuts, expand crime victims' rights and affirm so-called "traditional" methods of hunting and fishing.
An amendment to the state constitution approved on Tuesday caps the maximum state income tax at 7 percent, down from 10 percent. Critics said the result could mean that a recession could lead legislators to raise sales or property taxes or impose cutbacks on education, safety and other government services.
A constitutional change that would expand guarantees to crime victims was approved in exchange for a predicted cost of about $11 million per year.
North Carolinians also approved enshrining hunting and fishing with undefined "traditional methods," but also limited those rights to take wildlife to laws the General Assembly adopts.
A new constitutional amendment will require North Carolina voters to show a photo ID before being allowed to cast ballots, but legislators will decide later what will count as valid and what won't.
A change to North Carolina's constitution approved Tuesday adds the state to the handful in the country that strictly require showing a photo ID to a poll worker when voting.
Some of the states allow exceptions to the law if people have religious objections to being photographed, are poor, or are granted special confidentiality as domestic abuse or stalking victims. North Carolina lawmakers aren't required to make any exceptions.
Legislators haven't detailed how voters could get the photo ID needed to vote or how much it would cost the state.
North Carolina has rejected a constitutional amendment that would have permanently given state lawmakers more power over the makeup of a state board that decides election and ethics disputes.
The amendment rejected Tuesday by voters was designed by Republican legislators to create an eight-member Board of Elections and Ethics divided along party lines. Appointments to the board were traditionally overseen by the state's governors before lawmakers began taking steps in the past two years to reduce the governor's role in the process.
The amendment was opposed by all living governors, both Republican and Democrat.
Tuesday's vote came after a legal battle between Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper over the board. The state Supreme Court struck down a 2017 law establishing a politically divided eight-member board because it took executive authority from governors.
North Carolina voters are dumping a drive by state legislators to gain the dominant role in picking judges when seats are vacant, a move that would have undercut a governor's powers.
Voters on Tuesday rejected a proposal to change the state constitution in ways that would have diminished the governor's authority to fill judicial vacancies.
The amendment was opposed by all living governors, both Republican and Democrat.
The amendment also would have allowed replacement judges to stay in their appointed jobs for four years and get established. Judges who fill vacant seats now can serve only until the next election, meaning two years or less.
The change also could have weakened gubernatorial powers because governors wouldn't be able to veto legislation filling a judicial vacancy, giving lawmakers a way to push through new issues.
North Carolina polls have closed across the state.
People waiting in line at the 2,700 precincts statewide at the 7:30 p.m. closing time are still able to vote.
Two voting locations will remain open a little longer after some delays earlier in the day.
The state elections board voted to keep a Tabor City precinct site open until after 9 p.m. It opened Tuesday morning lacking one of three ballot styles that precinct voters can cast there. And a Gastonia precinct will accept voters 20 minutes longer after it was evacuated when a fire alarm sounded at the polling site.
North Carolina voters are choosing all 170 members of the General Assembly and members of North Carolina's congressional delegation. There are also four statewide appellate court seats and six constitutional referendums on the ballot.
Irish Beckett said she voted straight Democratic because she wants the country "to get back together."
Beckett, a 56-year-old black woman who is a dialysis technician, said the country has had its differences, "but nothing like what we have now."
Voting in Raleigh, Beckett said she's disturbed by President Donald Trump's comments that criticize people of certain ethnic backgrounds. She said there are bad people in every ethnic background, not just in people of color. With more Democrats elected, she said, "We can have our voices heard."
Beckett said she doesn't feel like she has a voice in the country's direction right now because everything Trump says or does, "everybody goes along with it, and it shouldn't be that way."
Bob Jenkins says there are some instances where he will go against his Democratic leaning and vote for Republicans, but the Raleigh attorney says when it comes to legislative and congressional races, he's sticking with his allegiance in the 2018 elections.
"But when it comes to the state House, state Senate, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, there aren't any Republicans now who voice any type of approach that I find appropriate or even what would be beneficial to us," said Jenkins, 56.
He grew up in a Democratic home. His mother was a two-term clerk of court in Rutherford County when he was a teenager.
"So I've been around politics all my life and grew up in an era where, of course when I was a kid, the Democratic Party ruled," Jenkins said. "Things have changed, but I haven't. I'm a stronger Democrat now than I used to be, given what's going on in the broader picture."
Jenkins said he was also troubled by the six constitutional amendments up for a vote in North Carolina on Tuesday, specifically the amendments lowering a cap on income tax rates and the right to hunt and fish.
"But a constitutional amendment protecting hunting and fishing . . . to me, that's just ridiculous," Jenkins said. "Hunting and fishing are not in danger. I find that troublesome, but that's all coming out of the Republican-led General Assembly."
Dora and Stuart Alexander are registered independents who used to be Democrats, but they didn't waver in their support for Republicans in the 2018 elections.
Stuart Alexander, 63 and a sales manager for a computer company, said Democratic policies have failed and they have no real policies except to raise taxes. He also accused Democrats of touting divisiveness and accusing Republicans of things that they're not doing.
Also, he said President Donald Trump is "heading down the right path.
"I like the path he's on," Alexander said. "I want to see him have all the help he needs in Congress."
Asked why she voted straight Republican, Dora Alexander said, "How much time do you got?" adding, "Because the Democrats aren't working."
A supervisor for the U.S. Postal Service said he did something he doesn't normally do and voted a straight Democratic ticket in North Carolina.
"It's so far out of hand now, that was my best play," said Calvin Lockhart, 37, of Raleigh.
Lockhart said he voted for all Democrats "to try to reverse the tables. I would prefer that it be primarily bipartisan. It should be even so they have to get the other side. Since it doesn't work that way, you have to play within the system. . . . To me, it shouldn't tilt left or right, it should be teamwork."
He said he wasn't voting on any particular issues but mainly on the issue that no Republicans will stand up to Trump "even though he's not going right." He said with Trump in office, "the Republicans are scared to speak up on issues they were vocal about before. And now they're silent."
North Carolina officials say high humidity is to blame after receiving reports that ballots in some precincts can't be fed through tabulators, but they stress that all ballots will be counted.
The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement said in a news release Tuesday that it received reports that ballots can't be fed through tabulators in some precincts in Wake County and elsewhere. Officials say such ballots are stored securely in "emergency bins" and will be tabulated as soon as possible.
Officials also announced the state board will meet Tuesday afternoon to consider the Columbus County Board of Elections' request to extend voting hours at a precinct where workers didn't have the correct ballot when polls opened.
North Carolina voters are deciding whether Gov. Roy Cooper and his Democratic colleagues will gain influence in the current Republican-dominated legislature, and if GOP policy proposals should be etched in the state constitution.
All 170 General Assembly seats are up for election Tuesday. Democrats needed to win four additional House seats or six more Senate seats to end the Republicans' veto-proof control. That's allowed Republicans to pass legislation at will, in particular those eroding Cooper's powers the past two years.
Voters also are choosing seats for the U.S. House, county offices and for state courts, including one on the state Supreme Court. There are six constitutional amendments on the ballot.
A record number of voters cast early in-person ballots for a midterm, despite there being no major statewide race.