Citizens-only voting, photo ID and income tax changes could become NC amendments on 2024

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina Senate is considering a slew of elections-related measures including three proposed constitutional amendments designed to give voters a say in the law-making process.

GOP senators are trying to advance the legislation quickly as an indefinite recess looms over the North Carolina General Assembly due to rocky budget negotiations. The bills – which passed a Senate elections committee on Thursday – deal with artificial intelligence in political advertisements, absentee ballot challenges and signature verification – as well as the three amendment proposals that could appear on ballots this fall.

“The opportunity before you today is to empower the people of North Carolina to amend their own state constitution,” Gaston County Republican Sen. Brad Overcash said in committee.

The proposed constitutional amendments would cover citizens-only voting, voter ID laws and income taxes. If the amendment projects are successfully enacted by the legislature, voters can cast their ballot for or against the referendums in November, making them law with a simple majority of votes.

To get a question on the ballot, it requires supermajorities – 72 House and 30 Senate members – to pass it. Referendums are not subject to Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto.

The first amendment – which also was proposed by House Republicans earlier this month – clarifies that only U.S. citizens who are at least 18 years old and meet other qualifications “shall be entitled to vote at any election.” The Constitution originally stated that everyone who is born in the U.S. or was naturalized as a citizen can vote.

It is already illegal for noncitizens to vote in U.S. elections, and the amendment does not appear to change any laws in practice. But the bill’s proponents say the clarifying language would set a foundation for who is eligible to vote and avoid confusion.

The second amendment states that all types of voting in North Carolina require photo identification, whereas the state constitution previously only specified in-person voting. Similarly to the citizens-only voting, photo ID is already required for all voting types in the state.

The last amendment would set a cap on income taxes at 5% rather than the current 7%. Individual and corporate income tax rates both are below 5% in the state.

Photo voter ID and income tax cap amendments – which required photo ID to vote in person and to lower the income tax cap from 10% to 7% – were already approved by voters in November 2018, but are still being challenged in court by the state NAACP. Senate leader Phil Berger suggested this week that getting voters to make changes to these amendments in November could make the litigation moot.

House Speaker Tim Moore, a primary sponsor of a House version of the citizens-only referendum bill, told reporters on Thursday he supported the voter ID proposal but had not yet reviewed the income tax question.

Outside of potential referendums, the Senate is also eyeing changes to political advertising laws, ballot challenge procedures and signature verification. The bill’s provisions include the following:

1. Require the use of generative AI to be disclosed in political advertisements and outline that a violation would result in a misdemeanor.

2. Mandate county election boards to challenge early voting or absentee ballots cast if the person is deemed ineligible because of death or a felony record.

3. Implement signature verification software for absentee ballots across the state starting July 2025.

Democratic senators raised several concerns with the legislation, such as the reliability of signature verification by machines and the AI disclosure. Mecklenburg County Democratic Sen. Natasha Marcus said the bill doesn’t do enough to stop politicians from using AI for “nefarious” reasons.

Burke County Republican Sen. Warren Daniel responded to Marcus’ concern by telling her to provide an amendment for consideration.