Campaign season for North Carolina’s proposed constitutional amendments has begun.
Supporters of the victim’s rights protections known as Marsy’s Law have just launched a statewide media spend to convince voters to approve the ballot question implementing it this fall.
A new 1-minute radio advertisement that will begin playing on stations across North Carolina explains the amendment through a simulated conversation. “I mean, who would oppose giving crime victim’s equal rights?” one of the actors says in the ad.
It’s the first visible coordinated campaign for or against a specific constitutional amendment slated to be voted on in November. Others will likely ramp up in the coming months.
For now, four of the 6 proposed constitutional amendments are tied up in litigation seeking to keep them off the ballot. Marsy’s Law isn’t one of them.
Marsy’s Law supporters have worked to push the legislation in North Carolina for more than a year and a half. Now the campaign has enlisted more heavy hitters in North Carolina’s political consultant class. Brad Crone from Campaign Connections has joined Chris Sinclair of Cornerstone Solutions and longtime politico Anna Roberts in working on the effort.
It’s unlikely that there will be coordinated effort against the Marsy’s Law amendment. But some Democrats have pushed voters to vote against all 6 of the proposed amendments, using the phrase “Nix All Six.”
[Need a refresher on North Carolina’s proposed constitutional amendments? Here’s our guide: 6 N.C. constitutional amendments you will vote on in 2018, explained]
Here’s what you need to know about Marsy’s Law.
Who is Marsy?
Marsy’s full name was Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas, and she was a student at UC-Santa Barbara when she was murdered by an ex-boyfriend. Soon after she was killed, her brother and mother ran into her accused murderer who had just been released on bond at a grocery store.
Marsy’s Law seeks to prevent that situation from happening by keeping victims and their families informed about the court proceedings involving their case.
What does Marsy’s Law do?
If approved by N.C. voters in November, Marsy’s Law would add language to the state constitution giving victims of crime and their families formal standing in court.
They would be informed of all court proceedings and have the opportunity to speak at plea, sentencing, and parole hearings.
You can see the full text of the law here.
It will appear on the ballot with the following verbiage, for voters to choose “for” or “against”: Constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime; to establish certain absolute basic rights for victims; and to ensure the enforcement of these rights.
Have other states implemented Marsy’s Law?
Yes. 35 other states have added Marsy’s Law to their constitutions, and five other states are expected to vote on doing the same this fall: Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, Nevada and Oklahoma.
What’s the argument against Marsy’s Law?
While four of the six proposed amendments have been challenged in court, this isn’t one of them. (The other is an amendment to protect the right to hunt and fish).
It’s also gained support from both Democrats and Republicans. The vote in the House was 107-9.
Some opponents have argued that the amendment is redundant with existing law. In other states, they’ve made arguments that Marsy’s Law can slow down the legal system or further prejudice a jury against the defendant.
“It really turns the presumption of innocence upside down by designating someone as a victim … before it’s been established that the defendant has committed any crime,” Barry Pollack, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told the Charlotte Observer last year.