03/18/2019
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By Erin Smith

Voters have begun heading to the polls to cast their ballots with One Stop Voting having started on Wednesday. As of 2 p.m. Friday, 1,275 ballots had been cast, according to the Bladen County Board of Elections.

Bladen County has 23,124 registered voters, according to the NC State Board of Elections.

The One Stop Voting location is the Bladen County Public Library located at 111 N. Cypress Street in Elizabethtown. The hours of operation are:

*Wednesday, October 17, thru Saturday October 20, 2018, from 7 a.m.- 7 p.m.

*Monday, October 22, thru Saturday, October 27, 2018, from 7 a.m.- 7 p.m.

*Monday, October 29, thru Friday, November 2, 2018, from 7 a.m.- 7 p.m.

*Saturday, November 3, 2018, from 8 a.m.- 1:00 p.m.

Voters who have not yet decided which candidate they will choose, have the opportunity to meet the candidates and hear their positions on issues at the Bladenboro BeastFest Candidates’ Forum. The Candidates’ forum will take place in Bladenboro at 12 noon on Saturday, October 27th, at the BeastFest stage.

Besides selecting their candidate of choice, voters will be asked to vote for or against a Local Sales and Use Tax of 0.25 cents. The tax was placed back on the ballot by the Bladen County Commissioners at the request of the Bladen County Board of Education.

The Board of Education proposed in their August meeting to utilize the funds to assist in making repairs to existing facilities and to place a portion of the funds generated towards pre-construction costs for new facilities to be constructed in the future.

A message left for Bladen County Schools Public Relations Director Valerie Newton requesting information on the exact projects planned, if the referendum is adopted, was not returned as of press time.

This is not the first attempt at passing a sales tax resolution in Bladen County. Voters in Bladen County have been asked to adopt a sales tax referendum six times, and each time it has failed to pass.

Voters will also be asked to either approve or disapprove six amendments to the North Carolina State Constitution.  A summary of the amendments appears below.

An Act to Amend the Maximum Income Tax Rate:

According to the amendment, the State’s current rate of income tax is at 10 percent. The proposed amendment, if approved, would place a cap on income taxes at 7 percent. The act does not specify how the income tax rate will be reduced to reach the 7 percent cap, should it be ratified. According to the proposed amendment, individuals will be allowed exemptions and deductions and only net income will be taxed. If approved, the amendment will take effect on January 1, 2019.

The amendment does not address sales taxes, corporations or businesses. Read the amendment in its entirety here.

An Act to Protect the Right to Hunt, Fish and Harvest Wildlife: 

The act is intended to protect individual rights to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife using “traditional methods.” The amendment does not define what methods of hunting or fishing are considered to be “traditional methods.”

If approved, the amendment will be effective upon certification. Read the amendment in its entirety here.

An Act to Provide Better Safeguards and Protections to Crime Victims:

The act, if approved, ensures crime victims will be treated with “respect and dignity.” It also guarantees crime victims the right to be present for court proceedings.

The act states crime victims will have the right to have their view heard at court proceedings involving the suspect, crime victims are to receive restitution in “a timely manner” and, upon request, crime victims are to receive information regarding the conviction and sentencing of the suspect.

The act also gives the crime victim the right to be notified in the event of the escape of a convicted suspect, when the convicted suspect is eligible for parole or is pardoned.

The act also gives the crime victim the right to have their views submitted to the Governor or any agency considering releasing the suspect.

Read the amendment in its entirety here.

An Act Requiring Photo Identification to Vote:

This act requires a voter to show photo identification when they appear in person at the polls to vote. This does not apply to absentee ballots.  The act tasks the General Assembly with determining what types of identification will be deemed appropriate.

Read the amendment in its entirety here.

An Act Giving the General Assembly the Right to Appoint Judges

This act calls for the creation of a Nonpartisan Judicial Merit Commission to nominate judges and make a recommendation to the General Assembly. The Nonpartisan Judicial Merit Commission will be made up of no more than nine members and their selection will be spread among the Chief Justice of Supreme Court, the Governor and the General Assembly. The act does not specify the exact number of panelists each will select.

The act also calls for the establishment of similar local judicial merit committees with members appointed by the Chief Justice of Supreme Court, the Governor, and the General Assembly. They will make recommendations for judges for Superior and District Courts.

The General Assembly will review the nominations and select two candidates to recommend to the Governor.  If the Governor fails to act on the recommended candidates, the General Assembly will be able to vote with a majority of both the NC House and NC Senate to appoint a judge to fill a vacancy.

To read the amendment in its entirety here.

An Act Establishing a Bi-partisan Board of Ethics and Elections:

This act calls for the establishment of an eight member panel to oversee enforcement of elections and ethics laws. The act states the Governor will appoint the panel from a slate of candidates from the General Assembly. The act states that four of the candidates for the panel will be nominated from a slate of candidates selected by the NC Senate leaders of the two political parties with the largest membership; four candidates for the panel will be nominated from a slate of candidates selected by the NC House leaders of the two political parties with the largest membership.

The General Assembly will establish guidelines on how to proceed should the Governor fail to appoint panel members.

To read the amendment in its entirety here.

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