Just as our nation's constitution stands as the highest governing power in the land, so, too, do the various constitutions of each state serve as the supreme authority over the residents of the state.
North Carolina's constitution has always been a dynamic document – throughout the state's history, lawmakers have had the foresight to update the constitution for clarity and to extend the rights of each person living here in many ways.
In 1971, a massive overhaul to the state's constitution was deemed necessary by a near-unanimous vote in the state legislature and a staggering majority in a statewide referendum. Since then, the modern version of the constitution has been successfully modified 28 times.
Initiatives like the widely supported ConnectNC bond, the establishment of two-term governorships, the changing of the voting age to 18 and the power of the gubernatorial veto have all been made possible by changes made to the state constitution over the years.
In each of these instances, the issues were discussed extensively and a clear, well-defined need was met by the proposed amendment. The amendments had resounding approval from voters that allowed North Carolina's constitution to grow and better reflect the needs and values of the state.
This year, there are six proposed amendments to the state constitution that were put on the ballot with little legislative discussion or public vetting. The amendments cover everything from the maximum allowable income tax rate to voter ID laws to the makeup of a bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement.
A thorough review of these amendments is outside the scope of this editorial, but it would greatly benefit all voters to read the full explanations of the amendments on the North Carolina Secretary of State's website at www.sosnc.gov.
The full explanations are much more thorough than the descriptions that will appear on the ballot, and a well-informed voter is the most powerful tool our democracy has at its disposal.
No doubt, someone has probably already told you how to vote on all six amendments. Republicans have overwhelmingly favored voting “yes” to each, while Democrats have called on voters to “nix all six.” The North Carolina Constitution wasn't written by, or for, Democrats or Republicans or people of any other political persuasion, though.
It governs us all equally, and we owe it to ourselves to make an informed decision based on what we know and what we believe, not what any political organization tells us.
In considering the six amendments on the ballot, it is critical to look to the precedent set by past amendments to the state's constitution. Is there a problem that these changes can identify? Is the path forward from the amendment well-defined? Will the changes prove to be the solution our state needs?
If electing officials to public office is equivalent to scribbling a grocery list on the back of your hand, then constitutional amendments are akin to getting a tattoo. If it's what you really want, then go for it, by all means. But it's best to be absolutely certain you won't regret it – they're a real pain to remove.