The primary election for NC-03 is less than a week away (Apr 30)! 26 candidates, 17 of them Republican, are on the ballot, which means runoffs are likely, unless one of them gets at least 30% of the vote. Early voting is open NOW and will be open through Friday.

NC-09 early voting begins today! Election day is May 14th. Analysts and pundits expect turnout to be low, so the 10 Republican candidates in that election are doing all they can to fluff up voters before the big day, including spending some big bucks (over $1 million in Leigh Brown's case).

One good thing to come out of the absentee ballot fraud chaos in NC-09 is HB944, which would “fund three new investigators and two data analysts at the State Board of Elections, and it would make it a crime to pay someone for completed absentee ballot request forms.” This is a bipartisan effort as well as a companion bill in the Senate-- SB626-- which limits what kinds of people are eligible to assist with filling out absentee ballots.

The NC Democratic party laid down a lovely little summary of what Sens. Burr and Tillis have been up to over the last few months, and to no one's surprise at all, none of it is good.

Senator Burr-- head of the Senate Intelligence Committe, it's important to note-- ha apparently been feeding the Trump administration bits of intel about the Mueller report before it was released. Let's just say the end of his last term (2022) can't come soon enough.

Senator Tillis filed a bill called The Protect Act, which purportedly would protect people with pre-existing conditions if the Affordable Care Act were to be declared unconstitutional. Under even a token amount of scrutiny, it actually does exactly what you expect it to do: protect Senate Republicans by giving them a way to cover their butts in case the ACA is repealed.

Tillis is up for reelection this year, however, and former Democratic NC Senator Eric Mansfield is contemplating running against him, joining the two Democrats already filed: NC Senator Erica Smith and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller. Let's be ready to pitch in as soon as the primaries are over, because Betsy DeVos' family has already boosted Tillis' reelection campaign by several thousand dollars.

Governor Cooper did the right thing last week and vetoed the “Born Alive” bill, SB359. This was nothing but a stunt by Republicans give themselves something to put in their advertising commercials and mailers against Cooper and Democrats. There was absolutely no need for this law; “newborns are protected by existing state law whether they survived an abortion or were simply born”. Contact Governor Cooper and thank him for sticking to his guns and doing the right thing.

This was a busy week for the debate around voting rights. Many voting rights advocates, including the Rev. William Barber, gathered in Halifax County to call for a full restoration of the Voting Rights Act in North Carolina. They decried the volumes of restrictive and suppressive laws passed  in the years between now and when the courts struck down Section 5 of the VRA, which “required states and other jurisdictions with a demonstrated history of voting discrimination to get pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department for any changes to election law.” North Carolina was, of course, one of the states covered by Section 5.

Democrats in the House Oversight Committee are investigating suspected voter-suppression tactics in several states. But Congressional Republicans, led by our own North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, Chair of the House Freedom Caucus, are undermining the Democrats' efforts. Here is Rep. Meadows' contact information in case you're inclined to call and urge him to let the Oversight Committee do its job.

Mueller's report names an election software company that Russian hackers compromised in 2016. North Carolina election officials are worried that the company, whose name was redacted, is the same one that supplies voting software to more than a dozen counties. It could be VR Systems, which was targeted by Russia in 2017.

But if the company [VR Systems] is in fact the one referenced in the Mueller report, Lawson said, it will be the first acknowledgement (sic) that hackers were actually successful in compromising the firm's network.”

State Board of Elections General Counsel Josh Lawson sent aletterto the company last week, and VR Systems responded with the assurance that to its knowledge, the software it issued was not hacked.

The Trump administration wants to insert a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census, and the Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments this week. 30 different organizations from across the country have joined to file a brief opposing this measure, including the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, which operates in North Carolina. They argue on behalf of those already underreported and thus, underserved and underrepresented: the poor, the rural, Native Americans, people of color, immigrants, children.

The addition of a citizenship question is likely to exacerbate the undercount of those communities, thereby diluting their political voices. Undercounting communities of color opens the door to racial gerrymandering, further diminishing representation of already disenfranchised groups.”

Tax Day brought varying degrees of anguish to lots of North Carolinians as they discovered what many of us predicted: that the so-called “tax breaks” the Trump administration offered us were the exact opposite. But SB622 provides a slim chance of relief, at least for your state tax return. This bill would “raise the standard deduction for personal income taxpayers by 3.75 percent starting in 2021”, AND “it would reduce franchise taxes on businesses while requiring online 'marketplace facilitators,' such as eBay, to collect sales taxes.” The primary beneficiaries of these tax breaks aren't citizens, but companies such as American Airlines and-- I can't believe I have to write this-- NASCAR.

gif via giphy

Brent Woodcox, special counsel for the NCGA Republicans, is rolling in dough, thanks to Senator Phil Berger. How do you feel knowing you help pay his salary?

We don't normally think of giant companies like Wal-Mart and Google as being on the same side as us in legislative matters, but they are in the case of a Duke Energy-written bill upon which I reported last week. They're worried, like we are, that this bill could lead to rate increases without oversight and input from those having to pay. Contact your legislators and urge them to vote against this bill.

North Carolina native and astronaut Christina Koch snapped an incredible photo on Monday from the International Space Station. Take a look at the Outer Banks from space! I can see Duck from here!

Thanks to NickStevens Graphics (@runnymonkey on Twitter) for enhancing the photo.

Tags: ICYMI, NC-09, NC-03, voting rights, ncga

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