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Daily Journal: Will constitutional amendments affect voter turnout in N.C.?

Dr. Andy Taylor responds to questions around constitutional amendments and voter turnout in North Carolina for Carolina Journal’s Daily Journal. on the effect that constitutional amendments will have on voter turnout in North Carolina.

This November, lawsuits permitting, North Carolinians will vote in referendums on six constitutional amendments. The issues they will address are crime victims’ rights, a right to hunt and fish, the method for filling vacancies on the states’ courts, the establishment of a bipartisan elections commission, a cap on the income tax rate, and voter identification.

Despite claims from the left that the six proposed amendments to the NC Constitution are political stunts to increase Republican turnout, he isn’t buying it.

The evidence referendums increase turnout is hardly compelling. North Carolina had its own referendum on same-sex marriage in May 2012.  Titled “Amendment One,” it was placed on the primary ballot, launched with ballyhoo, and subject to an intense campaign.  Ultimately, 35 percent of voters showed up, about par for recent presidential primaries and below midterm general elections. The authors’ goal was clearly passage, and they relied on a competitive Republican presidential primary to get people to the polls.

Voter ID and the tax cap are therefore perhaps as likely to motivate North Carolinians to get to the polls and vote Democrat as Republican. Voter ID, particularly, has become a “red meat” issue for many on the left, cast as it is in racial terms. The court cases and Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes might help Democrats more than expected. These spats over procedure have fostered indignation and could bring to the polls angry voters accusing Republicans of manipulating the democratic process.

The hunting and fishing measure might be the most effective at pushing Republican turnout. It should appeal disproportionately to conservative rural voters. But they live in districts where incumbent GOP legislators enjoy electoral security. I think the Democrats are wrong about Republican motives. Perhaps Republicans have the wrong motives. Either way, these proposals look like some of the last items on a GOP wish list to me. The party is anticipating a period of greater competition when it will be playing a little more defense.

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