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General Assembly’s special session about nothing but power

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Your North Carolina General Assembly steamed into special session on Tuesday allegedly to adjust the words that would appear on ballots this fall to help you understand proposed constitutional amendments.

But not even the legislators’ word proved genuine.

Rewording wasn’t their full intent in spending your dollars to change a law they wrote in 2016 and didn’t think about when they adjourned on June 29.

To be sure, some saw a need to adjust who writes what for those ballot “captions” that help you understand what you are voting to add (or not) to your Constitution.

But once senators convened just after noon, they decided to spike the party punch by also passing a bill that would eliminate the partisan designations for judicial candidates unless those candidates had been a member of the party for at least 90 days. (More on the irony and hypocrisy of that later.)

All this reinforces their singular purpose for which they returned to Raleigh: The GOP-controlled General Assembly continues to protect its supermajority and to pursue everlasting power for the party that represents less than a third of registered voters.

The wording issue emerged because the Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission of Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Attorney General Josh Stein, both elected Democrats, and Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble, a Republican, was charged with writing those captions.

Three of those proposed amendments — the appointments of some judges and members of commissions (such as this one) and an already controversial photo ID requirement for voters — are about moving power from the executive and judicial branches of the Constitution to the legislative branch. Three others address crime victims’ rights, an income tax cap and hunting and fishing.

And a bill that quickly passed the House and Senate removed the captions entirely and specified that the ballot would reflect the order in which legislators approved the amendments in the final week of the recent session.

Republicans have been almost jocular in their efforts to neuter Gov. Roy Cooper, and the judicial bill appears to be an act of vengeance toward state Supreme Court candidate Chris Anglin. He is running as a Republican, along with incumbent Barbara Jackson and Democrat Anita Earls, even though until June 7 he was a registered Democrat.

None of that mattered until last year, when, over Cooper’s veto, the General Assembly voted to make judicial races partisan.

Legislators should recognize when someone has played a dirty trick, because all of this is a dirty trick. There doesn’t need to be a tweaking of process and language for constitutional amendments, because they shouldn’t be on the ballot in the first place. Republicans are using them to generate turnout and empower themselves.

And the way to address Anglin’s candidacy and party switch is just as simple: Return to nonpartisan elections for judges.

Now it’s too late for the legislators, who should have stayed home, enjoying their summers.

No, the only way to end such power-grubbing is for you to wield your own power at the polls.

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