Join Neighbors on Call on Tuesday, October 29, 2019 at 6:30 PM – 8  PM at Orange County Public Library (137 W. Margaret Ln., Hillsborough,  NC) for Taking on NC Environmental Policy,  a look at environmental justice, climate change action, and the state  level policies and regulations we should be fighting for.

In 2018, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 325, a law that, among other things, eliminated voting on the popular final Saturday before Election Day. Facing litigation, lawmakers restored the final Saturday for 2018 ONLY. But under current law North Carolinians will NOT be able to vote on the heavily-used last Saturday in 2020, when voters will need it most. Lawmakers are considering restoring Saturday for 2020 through Senate Bill 683 — which is being considered in a conference committee now. Contact them and tell them to RESTORE THE LAST SATURDAY OF EARLY VOTING!

As we all know very well by now, photo ID will be required to vote in 2020. The law, passed last year, allows for students to use their photo ID as long as certain rules are met, including requiring schools to“submit an attestation letter under penalty of perjury that said the student IDs were issued following a verification of students' citizenship status, Social Security number, and birthdates.” The deadline for schools to submit this and other required documentation to have their student IDs qualify as voter ID to the State Board of Elections is zooming up: October 26th. To make matters even more urgent, “Students at institutions whose applications are denied will not be able to use their student IDs to vote in 2020. According to Rep. Zack Hawkins, a Durham Democrat and one of the primary sponsors of HB646, over 900,000 students could be affected.”

A new campaign begun by State Board of Elections director Karen Brinson Bell, called #yourvotemattersnc, is designed to instill trust in voters across the state that the NCBOE  is taking threats to election security seriously. Brinson Bell said “State Board of Elections and county elections boards are working with IT experts, the Department of Homeland Security and even the National Guard’s cybersecurity unit. Steps already taken to secure the system include banning voting machines from being connected to the internet in any way and using hand-eye audits in sample precincts to double-check vote counters.” Bolstering the security of absentee ballots in the wake of the NC-09 scandal and subsequent do-over election are also in the works. Learn more about the campaign here. This is all well and good, but we all were around for the lackluster job the NCBOE did in certifying those voting machines in the first place. The best way to secure our elections is hand-marked ballots in ALL precincts.

Two elections officials in Bladen County had complaints brought against them last week, but according to the SBOE, there was not enough evidence to move forward with an investigation, so the complaints were dismissed. The nature of the complaint and the nature of the folks doing the complaining should give you a chuckle.

“It might shock you to know that North Carolina’s campaign finance disclosure laws have not kept up with changing technology”, begins a Herald-Sun piece on the intersection of political campaigns and Facebook, but it should not shock us at all. North Carolina has not updated its laws to require a “Paid for by” line on digital ads or require campaigns to disclose who pays for their digital ads. The good news is that there is a bill for that-- HB700. You know what to do: contact your legislators, express your support for this bill, and ask that they support it as well.

Last week I reported that Governor Cooper's office was planning a public meeting to answer questions about the permit his office granted to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in response to a private investigation begun by Republicans into an allegation that Gov. Cooper extracted a payment from the pipeline in exchange for the permit. Evidently the public hearing, which will not allow for private questioning by the investigators, isn't enough for the Republicans. They have planned another public hearing, but it “will likely look like a deposition, with investigators from Eagle Intel questioning administration officials before a legislative subcommittee created to review the pipeline permit and mitigation fund.” It's entirely possible that some less-than-stellar morals were at work during this transaction, but for the Republicans to cost the state over $60,000 since this inquiry was begun last December is rich indeed.

In a new and distasteful revelation, NC Policy Watch reveals that State Treasurer Dale Folwell-- whose office is responsible for the maintenance of state pension and retirement funds-- has been investing those funds in none other than Chemours and its parent company DuPont, the companies that have been dumping and discharging PFAS and GenX into our water and air since 2017. The whole NCPW report is worth your time to read, especially if you're a state employee with a retirement or pension plan. If you're so inclined, here is Dale Folwell's contact form.

Eric Holder, the former US Attorney General whose foundation is sponsoring Harper v Lewis, met with left-leaning groups last week to pave a path forward for redistricting in North Carolina.

Perhaps Republicans are simply sick of fighting about redistricting (unlikely, but I can dream!), because it seems that Rep. David Lewis (the defendant in both state and Congressional redistricting lawsuits), has apparently called for a hearing on three bipartisan redistricting bills.

From WRAL:

House Bill 69 has 66 sponsors out of the House's 120 members. It would create an appointed commission that would hold public hearings and draw maps, and the legislature would vote those maps up or down.
House Bill 140, which has 63 sponsors, would ask voters to change the state constitution. If passed, legislative staff would draw maps, and the General Assembly would vote on them. The ground may have shifted under this bill, particularly when it comes to Democratic support. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the Democratic Party's point man on redistricting at the national level, came out against the bill last month, saying it doesn't go far enough.
House Bill 648 creates a new commission that would hire an expert to draw maps, with the commission choosing one of those maps to submit to the General Assembly. The General Assembly could alter that map before final passage. This bill has 25 sponsors.

Two reports, one released by WRAL and one by Common Cause, offer yet more clarity into the redistricting process. The WRAL report measures how the new state-level and national districts compare to the old (gerrymandered) ones. Their tool is actually fun to use, and very surprising in some cases.

As you'll find as you explore the simulated election results,the new maps are generally more fair. Plaintiffs in Common Cause v Lewis filed objections to some district groupings that still heavily favored Republican incumbents, but they're still more fair than they used to be, especially when things likegeography, county lines and the rural-urban divide are taken into account.

The Common Cause report is less gentle. It details the GOP-led effort to gerrymander our districts in a subtler way than most of us are used to: by using census data as the only source from which to draw districts. NC Policy Watch offers a good summary of the report here.

“By law, electoral districts must have about the same number of people, and state leaders draw those boundaries based total population counts. But GOP party operatives have been plotting to draw state legislative and congressional districts based solely on the citizen voting-age population (CVAP) — a move that they believe would be advantageous to white voters and harm areas where more people of color, legal residents, immigrants and children live.”

Who could have possibly come up with this idea? If you guessed our late great friend Thomas Hofeller, you'd be right. A new video by Vox elaborates on this and other plots by Hofeller and the GOP to craft a path to unprecedented, enduring power in North Carolina, which the GOP then took as a nationwide strategy. Read NC Policy Watch's summary here.

To end on a good note, North Carolina has just taken another step toward sensible management in the era of climate change: the state has hired its first-ever resilience officer, someone in a coastal area who is tasked with developing ways to think ahead and plan for the increased number and intensity of storms resulting from climate change. Jessica Whitehead has a lot of work ahead of her, and we wish her the best of luck.

gif via giphy

Tags: (ICYMI, NCGA, gerrymandering, redistricting, election security, NCBOE, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the Hofeller Files)

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