VICTORY!! In the gerrymandering case we've all been watching closely, Common Cause v. Lewis, Common Cause, Democrats, and opponents of partisan gerrymandering have won! Read Common Cause's statement here. Read summaries of the ruling on Twitter from Sam Levine of HuffPost and Ari Berman of Mother Jones.

As WRAL reports, “in an order posted Tuesday, the court found that:

-The General Assembly had partisan intent to create legislative districts that perpetuated a Republican-controlled legislature.
-The General Assembly 'deployed this intent with surgical precision' by 'packing' Democratic voters into certain districts and 'cracking' up their numbers elsewhere to dilute their voting strength.
-Partisan intent – keeping Republicans in control of the General Assembly – was leadership's top goal in drawing the maps.
-Under the maps, 'in all but the most unusual election scenarios, the Republican party will control a majority of both chambers of the General Assembly.'”

This was enough for the judges to rule unanimously in favor of Common Cause and Democrats.

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So what now? As we all know, a Democrat's work in North Carolina politics is never done. Remember SB673, the bill that would create an independent citizen's commission to redraw the maps? Our friends at Democracy NC have given us a way to urge our lawmakers directly to support this bill. Fill out the form, make sure to personalize your letter, and tell your representatives not to waste this golden opportunity to reform our lawmaking process and breathe some life into our dying democracy. There will likely be other opportunities to speak out in favor of fair maps during the process of drawing the districts for 2020. We'll keep a lookout and keep you posted!

Your first thought after a hearty cheer may have been the same as mine: what are the Republicans planning now? Your first act upon hearing that neither Berger nor Moore plans to appeal this ruling may have been to rock back from your phone or computer in shock.

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So why are they not continuing to fight this?

"They know they will lose in the Democratic-dominated state supreme court, and there is no viable path to federal court review.
They would rather NOT get a holding from the state Supreme Court (this was a three-judge trial court ruling), which would have greater precedential value.
They hope they would have a better chance to have their “nonpartisan” map accepted by the Supreme Court if they throw in the towel (that is, they are trying to avoid a worse court-drawn map).
They will use this ruling to run against the Supreme Court and try for a state constitutional amendment to give them the right to engage in partisan gerrymandering after the 2020 census."

Whatever they're planning, we have definitely deserved a brief but joyful celebration, and make sure to thank Stephanie Hofeller for coming forward with her father's infamous trove of files. Without them, Common Cause-- we the people-- might not have won the day.

Now that we've gotten the good news out of the way, let's move on to the less-than-good-news. The Federal Election Commission has lost its vice chairman, who stepped down from his post at the end of last month. That body no longer has enough members to operate, and so will effectively shut down. Why is this bad? “In addition to collecting campaign finance data, the FEC investigates potential campaign finance violations, issues fines and gives guidance to campaigns about following election law.” Hopefully Matthew Petersen's seat will be filled soon, but so far, no action has been taken on finding a replacement. This is no surprise, as the FEC has been busy “strengthening disclosure and transparency requirements for online political ads of the sort that Russian operatives used to manipulate voters in 2016.” The Trump administration can't have that, since they will likely need all the Russian help they can get to win again in 2020.

Even if the FEC regains its power fairly soon, it's important to know what tricks the Trumpian Republicans will employ during the upcoming election season. It's up to us to both learn how to spot the real threats to our elections (like deepfakes and Russian twitter trolls), and to vote in such numbers that we overwhelm even the massive propaganda machine. American democracy can still prevail.

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Speaking of voting,the elections in NC-03 and NC-09 are still running. In NC-03, Republican State Rep. Greg Murphy is currently in the lead. In NC-09, things are looking better and better for Democratic candidate Dan McCready. Democrats in the district have been voting more than Republicans. But now is not the time to become complacent. Quite the opposite; Hurricane Dorian threatens. It's expected to hit later this week, smack in the middle of early voting. The elections for both districts seem distant-- they're both on September 10th-- but we know well from Florence that the damage these hurricanes leave behind them can last for days to weeks. That's why the Board of Elections urges everyone in eastern NC to make a stop at an early voting site a part of their hurricane preparedness.

If you're in NC-03 or NC-09 and you have questions or concerns about Dorian's impact on your vote, including the closure of voting sites, call the Election Protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683).

via @gercohen on Twitter

Our friend Thom Tillis made a very well-timed show of frustration over the drawn-out and ineffectual recovery from previous hurricanes in his latest bill proposal, which aims to speed up the disaster relief spending process. He spent equal time bashing Gov. Roy Cooper. This is clearly little more than a stunt to gain reelection points. We won't fall for it. #onetermthom!

For months before a Cherokee County DA knew about children in the county were taken from their parents without court oversight, Department of Health & Human Services officials had known, and had not reported the crimes. Memos and reports show “the rapid termination of parental rights in Cherokee County, which raised red flags for DHHS staff five months before a judge ruled the practice unconstitutional.” Several hundred Cherokee County parents are suing the county and some of its former employees over the gross lack of due process in parental (and child) rights. The cases are winding their way through federal courts.

Marsy's Law-- one of the Constitutional amendments we voted on last year-- is now in effect. “The bill requires that victims, upon request, be granted certain rights, including notice of court proceedings for the accused, to be present and heard at those proceedings, to receive restitution 'in a reasonably timely manner, when ordered by the court' and to reasonably confer with the district attorney’s office.” Gov. Cooper hasn't indicated whether he will sign the bill or not, but if he doesn't, it will become law without him.

Check out NC Policy Watch's Top Stories for an update on the death penalty cases upon which I reported last week. The court is still deliberating.

Former President Barack Obama is making North Carolina a key player in his new initiative developed to end partisan gerrymandering: Redistricting U. We are in the top 10 “priority states” in the campaign's efforts to “train volunteers, give them the tools to impact the redistricting process in their state, hear from them on how to best make change in their communities, and empower them to be leaders in the movement for fair maps.”

I say this without a hint of irony:

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Tags: (ICYMI, gerrymandering, redistricting, nc-09, nc-03, voter education, voter rights, hurricane dorian)

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