Our friends at Neighbors on Call are sponsoring a series of "NCGA 101" events with local legislators in Durham, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough, and Pittsboro. Register and share! 2020 will be here before we know it, so why not get some GOTV training with You Can Vote? Once you're trained, check the calendar of events here. NC Open Gov. Coalition and the Elon University School of Communications to host Sunshine Day on March 11, 2019. Registration/Check in begins at 9:30am. The purpose of Sunshine Day is to celebrate openness and transparency in North Carolina government.

Today's post is link-heavy and contains links to sites that only allow a set number of free reads per month; I have tried to include alternate links to non-paywalled sites!

The NCBoE hearing on the NC-09 election may be over, but that doesn't mean the news coverage is! There are still several unanswered questions in this whole mess. Some of them revolve around McCrae Dowless and the scope and breadth of his absentee ballot collection operation. My main question is when we can expect criminal charges to be filed against Dowless since it's quite clear his ballot-collecting actions were illegal. Hopefully we'll get them soon, depending on the results of the 3 search warrants issued last week for finanical documents related to Dowless' operations.

Mark Harris has declined to run in the new election, citing health reasons. He has endorsed Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing.

image (c) Stony Rushing for County Commissioner

The jokes are writing themselves now, apparently.

The field, thankfully, is bigger than just Mr. Rushing. Longleaf Politics offers its list of frontrunners from both parties.

The Washington Post pulls back and takes a 30,000-foot view of this issue that's worth your time to read, especially the section titled "Great data can be put to nefarious ends". It reminds us that the NC-09 investigation was not an isolated incident, and that we must do all we can to re-sanctify two crucial functions of a democracy or we will have lost it altogether: the right to free, fair, and secure elections, and the right of all citizens to vote in them.

The WaPo article also alerts us to a nasty consequence of a trend we've all been seeing lately: the hyperpartisanship in politics. As the stakes become higher, the players become more and more obsessed with winning, and cheating becomes more and more attractive. But this isn't the only– or the worst– consequence of hyperpartisanship, lest we forget gerrymandering. I reported on Friday that Republican Rep. Chuck McGrady and others introduced a bill to end gerrymandering in North Carolina by creating an independent citizen's commission responsible for drawing districts. McGrady and others, including conservative leader Art Pope and former UNC president Tom Ross, are also advocating for changing the NC Constitution to outlaw gerrymandering.

"The proposed constitutional amendment is known as HB140 or the FAIR Act. It would ban the use of political data, like past election results or voter registration files, in drawing the districts. While a separate bill filed earlier this month [HB69] would take away the legislature’s power over redistricting and give that power to an independent commission, the FAIR Act would not require that, but would make it an option."

Late Friday, Wake County Superior Court judge Bryan Collins ruled that two of the constitutional amendments we and other progressive groups fought so hard against a few months ago– the voter ID amendment and the income tax cap– were unconstitutional. According to him, the state's district maps are so gerrymandered that

“…the constitutional amendments placed on the ballot on November 6, 2018  were approved by a General Assembly that did not represent the people  of North Carolina….An illegally constituted General Assembly does not  represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to  pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution.”

Many Republican lawmakers reacted quite strongly. The NCNAACP, who initiated the suit, celebrated the ruling, the full text of which you can read here. Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Democrat, took a measured approach to the ruling in his Twitter thread. This ruling is indeed remarkable for a lot of reasons, and will face an almost certain slate of appeals. Settle in; we may be in for another instance of what North Carolina politics has become famous for: being really dang complicated.

gif via giphy

It's important to understand that while this case unwinds, the photo ID amendment is still in place, and we still need to help those without photo IDs obtain them. Especially in light of a new development that may mean UNC system students would not be able to use their student IDs for voting despite the NCGA saying student IDs would be valid. Stay vigilant.

Governor Cooper gave the State of the State address on Monday. Here is a fact-checked summary. TL;DR: his facts are actually facts. That's refreshing!

The US House voted to block Trump's "national emergency" declaration Tuesday evening. The resolution now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate. We haven't heard from Senator Burr so I'm assuming he's voting against the block. But Senator Tillis published an op-ed in the Washington Post on Monday saying he'd vote for it. Remember, Senator Tillis is up for reelection in 2020. Tillis probably read the polls showing that a majority of Americans disapprove of Trump's move. He's likely trying to woo and win votes. If he does in fact vote to block Trump's emergency declaration, we'll take what we can get. And we'll still vote against him in 2020.

The integrity of local news reporting is under threat in North Carolina. McClatchy, a national news media publishing company, has purchased the Raleigh News & Observer, often linked here, and has offered voluntary buyouts for some of its staff. We are sorry to see such valued local reporting talent leave the N&O.

North Carolinians in the Cape Fear River Basin will be relieved to hear that the NC Department of Environmental Quality is now cleared to take action against Chemours for their mishandling of chemicals like GenX. The order, written by the DEQ and approved by a judge Monday, outlines a concrete plan and timeline for ridding the basin of dangerous chemicals. We don't know what that is yet, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

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