Republican-sponsored SB250 got a committee hearing yesterday. This bill, alternatively titled “Remove Foreign Citizens from Voting Rolls,” requires state and county boards of elections "to identify non-citizens on the voting rolls...by using records of excusal or disqualification from jury duty.” What it actually does is attack our right to vote and increase the likelihood that naturalized US citizens will be targeted and harassed. Read more in DemocracyNC's twitter thread here and the ACLU's statement here. Both the ACLU and DemocracyNC link to actions you can take to tell your lawmakers NOT to vote for this bill if it makes it to the Senate floor.
Against the objections of voting rights activists and others, the North Carolina State Board of Elections certified three new touchscreen voting systems for use in the state. For weeks, questions have swirled around whether the Board followed the law when they certified the systems. Marilyn Marks, founder of the Coalition for Good Governance, and University of South Carolina computer science and engineering professor Duncan Buell and others have led the effort to keep elections officials accountable and demand answers.
Just yesterday, the SBOE met and gave what passed for an answer: “The process laid out in state code was followed, and the systems can be used in the coming elections.” This didn't really appease activists. Marilyn Marks, who attended the meeting, indicated that a lawsuit wasn't far away.
It's easy to see why Republicans and those who depend upon and support them are trying so hard to make voting as difficult as possible: the future of voter demographics in North Carolina is a Republican's nightmare. Latinx voters are poised to rock the 2020 elections. Turnout in 2018 was twice and a half what it was in 2016; the vast majority of those voters were-- are-- registered Democrats. NC Demography has put out a very useful report on the changes to our state's voting population since 2016. Of note: newly registered voters are more likely to self-identify as Latinx. More Democrats than Republicans are registering for the first time, but yet more are registering as unaffiliated. That doesn't mean, however, that they truly don't care. They'll usually vote with the party of their preference. Let's hope they all prefer Democrats!
Proponents of gerrymandering in North Carolina are feeling quite a few stings in their hides this week. The plaintiffs in the case-- Common Cause v. Lewis-- filed a challenge to the House maps, alleging “the House Redistricting Committee secretly engaged two of their experts from the Common Cause v. Lewis trial who specialize in elections data analytics — they were supposed to ask the court for permission to engage anyone outside legislative staff. It also notes that all members of that committee were also emailed partisanship data about their base maps by their counsel. It states that House incumbents were allowed to revise their own county groupings to their personal liking, and largely out of public earshot.” These edited district groupings are what Common Cause is focusing on. “Incumbents in these groupings acted with partisan intent and impermissibly sought to preserve the cores of their prior districts, in violation of the Court’s mandates,” the filing states.
Just as Common Cause sued for an end to gerrymandering for state-level legislative districts, the National Redistricting Foundation (affiliated with former US Attorney General Eric Holder), is helping several North Carolina citizens sue for an end to North Carolina's gerrymandered Congressional districts. Read the filing here. The “Factual Allegations” section is a wild ride. We'll be monitoring this suit and its progress through the court with as much vigor and vigilance as we did Common Cause v. Lewis.
Despite small, stopgap “mini budget bills” rolling through the NCGA, the vast majority of the state is operating at last year's spending levels. That's enough to keep the refrigerator running, but not enough to give state employees and educators raises for the 2019-2020 year. Raises for educators and, of course, Medicaid expansion, are the two major sticking points for this budget, as Michelle noted on Monday. As a state employee and someone with several friends who are educators, I find watching our government leaders feud like game show contestants (or children) while we struggle is demoralizing, but this slow wearing-down of one's stamina is but one of the NC GOP's strategies for getting what they want. And I for one am tired of letting them do that. The session-- which should have ended already-- resumed yesterday. We'll be watching them closely.
Sen. Berger has set a timer on the Senate, at least. It will adjourn with or without action on the budget by Halloween. He left open the possibility of reconvening after candidate filings, in case any Democrats change their minds and decide to side with the Republicans. Let's make sure they don't: remember to periodically contact your senator and urge them to uphold Gov. Cooper's veto until a fair compromise is reached, and remind them that the only fair compromise is one that includes a full expansion of Medicaid.
Last week, "one-term Thom" showed up at Fort Bragg to hear complaints from soldiers and their families about the substandard living conditions on base, including black mold in some homes and apartments. He paid lip service to the desire to fix the issues, but we must question his follow-through. Trump has endorsed Tillis' 2020 campaign, and in turn, Tillis has become one of Trump's staunchest allies, lashing out at the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry in the wake of the whistleblower complaint about Trump's conversations with Ukraine last week. Given that Trump has diverted $3.6 billion from military construction projects to fund his idiotic border wall, it's fair to assume that Tillis' promises to the military families of North Carolina are hollow. Note: though the $3.6 billion was diverted mostly from upgrading military bases, that evidently does not affect any military family housing. That's not terrible news, but I have a feeling these cuts will make it difficult for Tillis to request any more money to repair housing in North Carolina, were he so inclined. I'm doubtful he is.
US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg graced North Carolina with her presence last week. NC Policy Watch's report on her interview is eminently quotable, as is “Notorious RBG” herself, so I'll just leave this here.
I know last year seems like a decade ago for those of us who sail the torturous winedark sea of politics, especially on a national level, but it was only a year ago that the NC Board of Elections was subpoenaed by the US Department of Homeland Security and ICE in connection with an investigation of 19 foreign nationals that may have voted illegally. After lots of back and forth, the Board submitted records for 789 voters to the US Attorney's Office in February. Now, a media coalition including WRAL and the Washington Post are suing the NCBOE for records related to the subpoena. The suit alleges both state and local boards of elections are "'knowingly and intentionally' violating North Carolina public records law and have been unable to identify any justification for refusing to produce the records, originally requested by WRAL News in May." We don't know why the 789 records were selected for submission, who the voters in the records are, or why "the state instructed county boards to collect several years of their voting histories, signed poll books and redacted ballots to deliver to federal investigators."
Last week I reported that the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina, Patrick Conway, would keep his job after being charged with driving while impaired and misdemeanor child abuse. I'm glad to publish a retraction: the BCBS Board of Trustees asked for and received his resignation late last week.
Our Lt. Governor, Dan Forest, is about to set a very bad example for the people of North Carolina. He is set to be the key speaker at The North Carolina Renewal Project, an event chock full of anti-LGBTQ and anti-Muslim speakers. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the nation, is calling on Lt. Gov. Forest to step down. Let's join them: contact Lt. Gov. Forest and tell him firmly but politely that by headlining this event, he's endorsing a culture of hate and bigotry for which the people of North Carolina do not stand, and will not tolerate.
While I agree with the intent behind Thomas Mills' piece on the Democratic response to House Republicans overriding Governor Cooper's budget veto, I disagree with the output. Mills dismisses Rep. Darren Jackson's call for Republican lawmakers to take a lie detector test, saying there are bigger battles to fight. While I myself wasn't entirely gracious to Rep. Jackson in my post last week, I've got a bone to pick with Mills' assertion that there will be no consequences. Yes, the Republicans have been acting as if there are none, and one has even explicitly stated so, and yes, we cannot fight all of the battles there are to fight; we must pick some. But that's the magic of having a grassroots resistance: everyone doesn't have to fight all of the battles. Some pick some; others pick others. Every battle must matter to us, because every battle matters to the Republicans. They get what they want by being persistently slimy, and we must counter that by being persistently vigilant.
What scared Mitch McConnell enough for him to silence Elizabeth Warren's objections to Jeff Sessions' appointment?
What was our rallying cry, emblazoned on hats and t-shirts, slapped on car bumpers and hung on walls and painted on posters? What words did we reclaim from the unworthy mouth of a liar and fashion into a flag which we planted and stood beside?
We must persist, because "widespread corruption is undermining the legitimacy of state government. ...Last week’s headlines in North Carolina reeked of corruption: the caprice of an elite mob. Challenges to legitimacy may not be far behind." I strongly recommend you read the linked Charlotte Observer piece; its truths may be barbed, but if it shakes us from our apathy, it's worth the prick.
Tags: (ICYMI, NCGA, voting rights, gerrymandering, BCBS)
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