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The legislature-mandated transition from touchscreen voting machines—which can be easily hacked-- to hand-marked paper ballots in North Carolina has hit a snag. The State Board of Elections met last week to certify one of three new companies plying their wares, but since the Board didn't know who owned those companies, they are suggesting a delay in deciding which company gets certified to provide election software in North Carolina. While secure voting systems are probably the single most important thing to ensure a fair election in 2020 (and we need them FAST), we can't afford to rush the process and potentially put our votes at risk again.

Thom Tillis has another Democratic challenger: Cal Cunningham, a former state senator who, until recently, had been running for lieutenant governor. He decided to switch races because, according to him,

"'There's really a fundamental political corruption problem that put Washington completely out of touch with the people,' Cunningham said, citing corporate influence and big-money donors. 'That fundamental problem is a Washington that is broken.' Cunningham said Tillis is part of that failure but that he would work in tandem with North Carolina to find solutions if elected.”

North Carolina hasn't gotten very good marks on its healthcare report card, according to The Commonwealth Fund. Because it has not expanded Medicaid, it is less equipped to handle deaths related to drug and alcohol abuse as well as the skyrocketing costs of healthcare.

And it's about to get worse for state employees, if the deadline to sign new provider contracts with the State Health Plan passes with so few providers signed on. The state is renegotiating thousands of contracts with hospitals and clinics, and if they don't sign, they won't be part of the new State Health Plan starting January 2020.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars and medical care for more than half a million people are at stake in what amounts to a game of chicken over a cut in how much the largest health insurance plan in North Carolina pays for care. If the sides can't strike a deal, every hospital in the state and an untold number of doctors will be out-of-network for state employees, teachers and retirees on the plan, boosting their out-of-pocket costs and causing confusion.”

The deadline for signing the contracts is July 1st.

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Last week we learned that the late Mark Hofeller not only helped engineer the NC GOP's worst gerrymandered districts (because of which they are now in court), but he also helped develop the citizenship question the Trump administration wants placed on the 2020 census (which is also in court). This week, we learn how deep the rabbit hole goes: before his death, Hofeller had been communicating with Christa Jones, who would go on to be chief of staff to the Census Bureau’s deputy director under the Trump administration. Eight months before their communication, Hofeller had conducted a study that found that “adding a citizenship question to the census would be necessary for conservatives to overhaul redistricting in a way that would be 'advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.'” New court filings, including this new information, are before the 4th US Circuit Court this week. In typical Republican fashion, they are, through their attorneys, trying to walk back the extent of their own lies, now fully out in the open thanks to the Hofeller files.

The 2020 census continues to hurtle toward us, but North Carolina, as we well know, is still embroiled in litigation resulting from gerrymandered districts drawn by the Republicans based on the 2010 census. A mathematician and a student from Duke have taken note of what we all know: that these districts represent a symptom of something very wrong with the way our democracy works. So they programmed a computer to draw maps that consider certain criteria: “the districts should be pretty compact – no districts that look like those long, craggly preschool drawings. As much as possible, counties and cities should be kept together in the same districts, the districts should have equal number of people in each. And in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act, there should be at least two districts with a significant block of black voters.” These maps provide a useful starting point, but until there is agreement on how to draw these districts-- that is, who should draw them-- no meaningful movement can be made. Fortunately, there are a few bills making their way through the NCGA that will likely pick up steam after the Supreme Court rules on the gerrymandering case currently before it.

Be ready to make calls once SCOTUS hands down its ruling, because if the Supreme Court refuses to declare political gerrymandering illegal and if the 2020 census is allowed to move forward with a citizenship question added, it could be a double whammy to districts in North Carolina already ground down by Hurricane Florence. The census is so critical because it determines the amount of federal funding for various programs, including Medicaid and disaster relief. If already-impoverished districts and counties are further undercounted in 2020, it could make the likelihood of economic disaster even stronger if a hurricane like Florence were to hit North Carolina in the future.

The State Bureau of Investigation, upon the State Board of Elections' request, has found and arrested three people accused of voter fraud in the 2018 election. Thank goodness our elections are safe again. Oh wait...

Blue doesn't come in only one shade, especially in such a diverse state as North Carolina. It's easy to lose sight of nuance in the fervor-- and yes, the need-- to seat as many Democrats as we can to avoid some of the real danger that enduring rule by Trumpian Republicans represents. But we must not forget that even though some Democratic legislators vote with Republicans occasionally, they are doing precisely what they were hired to do: represent the will of their constituents. We must not devalue the contributions of these leaders-- and more like them we might need in the future-- simply because they are not progressive enough for our preference. Yes, we do need progressive Democratic leaders, but we must also be mindful that in some areas of the state, more centrist, traditional Democrats may have a better chance of winning against Trumpian Republicans than a progressive Democrat that may not know the people and the area.

In a move that is hilariously descriptive of their own party, Republicans in the NCGA introduced a bill this week that would allow bars to stay open later during the Republican National Conventionin Charlotte next year. Right now, alcohol sales stop at 2am. But for Mecklenburg and the surrounding counties, from August 22ndto August 30th2020, they could stay open until 4am. Who wants to roadtrip to Charlotte next August and take video of drunk Republicans?

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Tags: (ICYMI, NCGA, gerrymandering, census 2020, healthcare, medicaid expansion, voter rights)

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