NC Constitutional Amendment on November 2010 ballot

Does anyone else have concerns about the constitutional amendment on the ballot this November?

After voters tossed all the felons out of every sheriff's primary this past May, the NC General Assembly still felt it necessary to use a bazooka to kill a gnat.

The honorables passed a constitutional amendment barring felons from any state -- even those who have had their citizenship rights restored -- from running for the office of sheriff.

It's that unconditional banishment from office that bothers me.

This seems like gross overkill from the legislature, particularly taking convictions -- or even pleas of no contest -- from other states. These days that could mean an overzealous prosecution for protesting outside a "free speech zone" our federal overlords may set up at a party convention (coming to Charlotte?).

It seems everything is a felony these days.

Someone make me feel better about this, because right now, I'm voting against it.

Comments

I don't know

Whenever this subject comes up I think of Gerald Hege, whose personal lust for power, fortune and fame turned his department into an extra-legal paramilitary organization. When he and his department finally came unglued from numerous felony charges (he is now a convicted felon), I no longer felt a "cold sweat" driving through Davidson County.

But even with that felony hanging around his neck, he still ran for Sheriff this year. He lost the (Republican) Primary, but you know politics. All it would take is a jump in crime or a controversy with the other guy, and he could be back in power within a few years.

A convicted felon as Town/City Manager? Okay. Board of Commissioners? Whatever. Running an armed unit with power over all citizens? No way in hell. You gotta draw the line somewhere.

I support the amendment.

As scharrison pointed out, the notion of a convicted felon being in charge of law enforcement with a group of his own armed and deputized cronies running around with all kinds of power to detain citizens crosses the line for me. Gerald Hege in Davidson County or Bobby Medford in Buncombe County both come to mind.

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The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

Not that worried

...since it's already against the law for a felon to be a deputy. But in order for that to be applicable to the bosses of the deputies, has to be a constitutional amendment since sheriffs are constitutional officers.

Why is the amendment restrictive rather than permissive?

I understand that folks want to be able to adjust the qualifications of office for sheriff.

So why rewrite the constitution like this:

"Sec. 2. Sheriffs.
In each county a Sheriff shall be elected by the qualified voters thereof at the same time and places as members of the General Assembly are elected and shall hold his office for a period of four years, subject to removal for cause as provided by law. No person is eligible to serve as Sheriff if that person has been convicted of a felony against this State, the United States, or another state, whether or not that person has been restored to the rights of citizenship in the manner prescribed by law. Convicted of a felony includes the entry of a plea of guilty; a verdict or finding of guilt by a jury, judge, magistrate, or other adjudicating body, tribunal, or official, either civilian or military; or a plea of no contest, nolo contendere, or the equivalent."

Instead of making the second sentence something like:

The General Assembly shall have the power to stop felons from holding the office of sheriff.

The next session of the General Assembly could then pass a law -- and be able to adjust it in the future -- when the next issue pops up (carrying a gun legally, finding another state's definition of felony to be overly broad, etc.)

With the expansion of felony offenses in recent years, I just don't like this at all.

It's even more strange to me that Rep. Ronnie Sutton always railed about defining too many crimes as felonies (or increasing the degree of felony) and then sponsored this bill that accepts even no contest pleas from other states as a disqualifier from office.

This is still too much of an amendment for me. I'll still listen to good arguments for it, but I've still got to vote no -- and wonder why the bill was drafted this way.

This constitutional question should at least be getting the press the DNA-upon-arrest bill got. Where are my civil libertarians?

 

Correction: Rep. Sutton didn't truly sponsor this bill

Upon further reflection, this was a "gut-and-amend" fix-it job handled in the Senate Rules Committee.

This calls the drafting of the bill (and therefore constitutional amendment) into question even further.

Rep. Sutton still voted for it though.

 

Update: Constitutional Amendment Finally Getting Some Press

Thanks to the Libertarian Party for taking a stand on this matter and generating the press I hoped for when I originally made this blog post.

Binker has a story here.

Fayetteville Observer has a story here.

I've also talked to a few folks who live in a county where a felon was on the ballot this May (not Davidson County, but another county). Of course, they as voters in that county took care of that problem themselves.

Even those folks who were faced with a felon on their ballot feel like this amendment is overkill.

I actually don't feel like we shouldn't be able to bar felons from being sheriff. I just think this amendment - particularly the way it is drafted -- is overly broad.

I again refer folks upthread for a proposed solution we could enact prior to the next sheriff elections in four years. I'm also open to other solutions.

But for now...

Vote NO on the constitutional amendment.