The 2018 midterm elections have been especially contentious as Democrats gear up to take back Congress and Republicans hope to maintain their hold. There are currently 69 highly competitive seats across the country, and the Democrats need 23 of those in order to secure a majority in the House. Democrats must defend 26 Senate seats while Republicans must maintain 9.
On average, at least half of Americans never make it to the polls, and those who do are often blindsided by confusing wording or unrecognizable names. If you are registered to vote in the UNC Charlotte area, you will elect a congressperson, a state senator, a North Carolina house representative and a justice to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Everyone registered to vote in North Carolina will vote on six constitutional amendments.
Early voting continues through Nov. 3 and Election Day is Nov. 6 with polls open from 6:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m. Prepare yourself now with this summary of what will be on the ballot for most Charlotte residents.
The General Assembly has proposed six amendments to the North Carolina Constitution, all of which have received considerable criticism for intentional vague wording. They include an income tax cap, expansion of victims’ rights, protection of the right to hunt and fish, change in procedures for appointments to elections board, change in judicial selection procedures for midterm vacancies and voter ID requirement.
The Income Tax Cap Amendment proposes to reduce the maximum allowable income tax rate in North Carolina from 10 percent to 7 percent. It does not change the current individual income tax rate of 5.499 percent nor the current corporate income tax rate of 3 percent. Income taxes are one of the ways state government raises the money to pay for core services such as public education, public health and public safety. Supporters claim the state has been operating well so far with the current rate; opposers say education will lose funding and that it does not provide exceptions for times of crisis.
The Marsy’s Law Victims’ Rights Amendment is intended to strengthen protections for victims of crime and to ensure the enforcement of these rights. It would broaden the base of currently protected victims to include all who were personally victimized. According to the N.C. Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission, the additional rights would be: “To be treated with dignity and respect. Reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of a proceeding, upon request. To be present at any proceeding, upon request. To be reasonably heard at additional kinds of court hearings. Restitution in a reasonably timely manner, when ordered by the court. Information about the crime, upon request. To reasonably confer with the prosecutor.” The public fiscal note that accompanied this legislation estimates that these changes would cost about $11 million per year, although the amendment does not specify where the money would come from. Supporters say it is a bipartisan effort to protect victims while opposers claim it would slow down court proceedings.
The Right to Hunt and Fish Amendment would protect the right of the people to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife using “traditional methods,” although these methods are not defined. Hunters would still be subject to wildlife conservation and management laws. Supporters say that both practices have decreased drastically. Opponents say it is simply an attempt to draw Republicans to vote.
The Legislative Appointments to Elections Board Amendment proposes a smaller, eight member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections. North Carolina currently has a nine member Board, eight of whom are appointed by the governor, resulting in four Democrats and four Republicans. The governor also appoints the ninth member, who is not a member of a political party, from nominations provided by the other eight members. This amendment would override the Supreme Court decision to not reduce to eight members. Supporters suggest that dividing the Board on partisan lines would force them to make bipartisan decisions. Opponents worry that it will result in gridlock and eliminate representation for unaffiliated voters.
The Judicial Selection for Midterm Vacancies Amendment would change the appointment process if a judge does not complete her term. Currently, the governor chooses the replacement, but if the amendment passes, the legislature would pick two finalists from candidates reviewed by a commission and the governor would select between them. The N.C. Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission stated that it would weakens voters’ constitutional right to elect judges. Supporters claim it would reduce political considerations when choosing judges whereas opponents point out that judicial candidates would be required to lobby legislators whose laws they would eventually review.
Perhaps the most controversial of all the amendments, the Voter ID Amendment would require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person. The amendment does not specify what type of photo identification would be accepted. Supporters say it would prevent voter fraud and opponents say it would decrease voter participation by adding one more barrier to the process.
The Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission — made up of two Democrats and a Republican — typically drafts the ballot descriptions, but this year the legislature prohibited them from doing so and wrote them instead. Governor Roy Cooper and the N.C. NAACP challenged the four amendments because of their allegedly misleading wording, but the lawsuits died in the N.C. Supreme Court. An Elon University poll revealed that only 8 percent of North Carolina voters understand the amendments.
U.S. House of Representatives
Incumbent Democrat Alma Adams and Republican Paul Wright are vying for the 12th District seat to the United States House of Representatives in what has been rated as a safe Democrat race.
Congresswoman Alma Adams served for 10 years as a member of the N.C. House of Representatives before she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014. She has cast several key votes in the U.S. House including nay on a bill that proposed funding a border wall, limiting legal immigration, a mandatory worker verification program, allowing DACA recipients to apply for legal status and preventing separation of families at the border. Her major issues of concern include narrowing the achievement gap and supporting HBCUs, proactive environmental policies to combat climate change, expanding the Affordable Care Act, tax increases for the wealthy and tax cuts for the middle class. Adams won 85.5% of the vote in the Democratic primary.
Former District Court Judge Paul Wright has run for governor, U.S. Senate and Congress from two different districts all in the past six years. This is the first time he’s won his party’s nomination. He currently lives in District 7 but is still eligible to campaign in District 12. His key issues include maintaining the right to bear arms, supporting Trump in cracking down on illegal immigration, avoiding conflict with Russia, resisting the “deChristianization” of America, reversing Obergefell v. Hodges (which legalized same-sex marriage) and prohibiting genetically modified food crops. Wright won 43.2% of the vote in the Republican primary.
North Carolina State Senate
Democrat Mujtaba Mohammed and Republican Richard Rivette are running for N.C. State Senate in District 38. The seat is currently held by Democratic Senator Joel Ford. Republicans have a 34-15 majority in the state senate heading into the elections.
Mujtaba Mohammed is a graduate of UNC Charlotte and a current public interest attorney. He is also a former employee of the Charlotte nonprofit Council for Children’s Rights. Mohammed is running on a platform of education, economy and equity. Specifically, he advocates early childhood programs, higher teacher pay, higher funding of education, incentives for companies to hire individuals with criminal records, a livable minimum wage, Equal Pay Act for North Carolina women, in-state tuition for undocumented students and automatic voter registration. In an unprecedented primary, Mohammed beat incumbent Senator Joel Ford with 51.9% of the vote.
Richard Rivette has worked in marketing, product development, branding and business development. He unsuccessfully ran against Senator Joel Ford in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Rivette is a self-described “strict Constitutionalist” who is running on a platform of “PROjobs, PROgrowth, PROcharlotte, PROnc and PROrights.” He believes that we must eliminate most taxes, maintain the current minimum wage and appoint citizen committees to help plan development in Charlotte. Rivette won as the only nominee during the Republican primary.
North Carolina House of Representatives
Democratic incumbent Carla Cunningham and Republican Geovani Sherow are competing to represent District 106 in the N.C. House of Representatives. Republicans have a 75-45 majority heading into the elections. All 120 seats are up for election.
Representative Cunningham is a registered nurse and has served five terms in the N.C. House of Representatives. She sought election to the U.S. House in 2016 but lost to incumbent Alma Adams. Cunningham supports the expansion of Medicaid, increased funding for public schools, free community college, enforcing equal pay for all citizens and increased training for employees in the criminal justice system. She won 88.9% of the vote in the primary. Cunningham also won by wide margins in the House races of 2012, 2014 and 2016.
Geovani Sherow is UNC Charlotte graduate and current commercial contractor. He does not have any information published online for the 2018 election, but in April 2018 he told the Charlotte Observer that he supports arming school teachers and staff and breaking up the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools district. Sherow ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
Additionally running are Democrat Anita Earls, Republican Chris Anglin and Republican incumbent Barbara Jackson for the North Carolina Supreme Court. However, Anglin was a registered Democrat before filing as Republican for the 2018 race. There are currently four Democratic and three Republican justices.
Several local candidates are guaranteed seats because they do not face any opponents. Democrat Louis A. Trosch Jr., Democrat Karen Eady-Williams and Democrat Donnie Hoover will all retain their places in the Mecklenburg Superior Court. Democrat Garry McFadden will take over as Mecklenburg County Sheriff and Democrat Spencer Merriweather will take office as Mecklenburg County District Attorney.