Absentee voting by mail is underway, ballot request deadline is Feb 25. Details here.

It's time!! Early voting is underway and ends on Feb 29. VOTER ID IS NOT REQUIRED FOR THE MARCH 2020 ELECTION! Make your plan to vote NOW! Check out Patti's post to help find your candidates and learn about them.

Neighbors On Call is hosting an event Tuesday February 25th from 6:30pm to 8pm at the Orange County Public Library (137 W Margaret Ln, Hillsborough): Taking on NC Environmental Policy with Lisa Sorg of NC Policy Watch. RSVP and details here; share the Facebook event here.

Our friends at RealFactsNC are doing great work: they profile candidates running for office in North Carolina, keep us updated with campaign finance reports, and let us know what races we ought to watch for. I’ve got them bookmarked!

Guilford County got a new paper-ballot voting system just in time for the 2020 elections. Voters had mixed reviews, but poll workers are glad for the change. The deadline for NC counties to change from electronic voting systems to hand-marked paper ballots was this past December. Let’s hope the rest of the counties who switched had an easy transition and are ready to be more secure for this critical election.

Last week we learned that a Republican-affiliated PAC had funded state Sen. Erica Smith’s campaign for Thom Tillis’ US senate seat, in an attempt to rig the primary so that Tillis would be running against an opponent they viewed would be easier to beat. Sen. Smith has distanced herself from Faith & Power PAC, and Cal Cunningham, a Democrat running against her in the primary, joined her in condemning the PAC’s efforts. Read more about Faith & Power PAC in the article linked above.

You might remember Bob Hall’s name from back in November when he filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections alleging that Sen. President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s shady financial manipulation constituted a violation of campaign finance law. Berger hasn’t quit being shady, so Hall hasn’t quit calling him out on it. This time, Hall filed a complaint with the NCGA’s Legislative Ethics Commission:

“Berger ‘unethically transferred’ $73,500 of campaign donors’ money to himself when he used it to pay the mortgage on a recently-sold north Raleigh townhouse he co-owned with his wife.”

Hall also alleges that Berger broke a second state law when he sold the townhouse for more than what it was worth to a lobbyist, therefore technically receiving a monetary gift from the lobbyist.

The N&O (paywall after 5 articles/month) hosts an informative interview with the 4 candidates for Governor: Gov. Roy Cooper, Democrat Ernest T Reeves, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, and Republican Rep. Holly Grange. By this point, we all pretty much know what Dan Forest is about, but in case you still weren’t sure who you wanted to vote for, this may help.

NC Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour, who originally approved the settlement, has overturned the UNC Board of Governors’ $2.5 million deal with the NC Sons of Confederate Veterans over the Silent Sam statue. Rejoice!

via Twitter

I’m guessing Baddour had not known then what we all know now—just how slimy and underhanded this deal was. Now we know, and I’m glad Baddour ruled as he did: that SCV had no grounds to sue UNC and get the settlement in the first place. We don’t yet know what Silent Sam’s new fate will be, nor do we know what, if anything, will happen to the $74,999 payment from UNC to SCV that went along with the settlement.

Read about the Silent Sam debacle in the New York Times (paywall after 3 free articles/ month).

The second ECU Board of Trustees member who was accused of trying to bribe a student body president candidate with campaign funds has resigned. Robert Moore sent a letter to NCGA House Speaker Tim Moore, who appointed him, on Monday, resigning and wishing Speaker Moore luck on becoming ECU Chancellor.

A second NC court has upheld the injunction Judge Loretta Biggs passed against the voter ID law last month. This means that, for the second time, judges have said that any argument put forth in favor of the law will not stand in court. Instead,

Hampson wrote that the General Assembly’s history with voter ID laws, the unusual sequence of events leading to SB 824’s passage and the disproportional impact it will likely have on African American voters all point to the conclusion that discriminatory intent was a primary motivating factor of the measure. ‘This is especially true where the Amendment itself allows for exceptions to any voter-ID law, yet the evidence shows the General Assembly specifically left out types of IDs that African Americans disproportionately lack,’ the appellate ruling states. ‘Such a choice speaks more of an intention to target African American voters rather than a desire to comply with the newly created Amendment in a fair and balanced manner. Accordingly, we conclude, on this Record, Defendants have yet to show S.B. 824 would have been enacted in its current form irrespective of any alleged underlying discriminatory intent.’”

As you might expect, Republican lawmakers aren’t happy. House Speaker Tim Moore defended the law this week, saying North Carolina’s law is “one of the nation’s most lenient voter ID laws”. But a bit of fact-checking proves him, predictably, wrong.

In this week’s edition of the Eyeroll Express, Republicans are accusing Rep. Deb “How Dare You, Mr. Speaker” Butler and other NCGA Democrats of violating a court order. We all know the underhanded move Republicans pulled on Sept. 11ththat caused Rep. Butler’s outcry. But now, since Republicans refuse to let anything die, they accuse Democrats of holding a clandestine meeting the day of the veto override and of breaking the law by refusing to post or submit copies of their personal calendars. I can’t tell if they realize how hypocritical they’re being or not.

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The Bladen County Board of Elections isn’t doing so hot these days. The Board’s chairwoman, Louella Thompson, is under scrutiny for threatening to arrest other board members for standing and saying the Pledge of Allegiance after the board voted to not say it during meetings. This isn’t the first time complaints have been filed against her, nor the first time those complaints have been dismissed. She and another member allegedly violated NC’s open meetings law, but State Board of Elections Chairman Damon Circosta recommended training for the troubled board instead of having Thompson removed.

McClatchy, the news media company that owns the News & Observer, the Charlotte Observer and the Durham Herald-Sun, among other newspapers across the country, has filed for bankruptcy. They say this will have no immediate impact on North Carolina newsrooms owned by the family company. But the future is uncertain as print journalism continues to struggle. I’m not a fan of conglomerates like McClatchy, but I’m a hugefan of local journalism. So hopefully this filing won’t affect McClatchy’s ability to uphold our right to freedom of the press.

Without McClatchy, we may not have the next two stories that, combined, show us just how far we have yet to go to drag ourselves into the 20th (nevermind the 21st) century. Besides the racism we constantly battle, North Carolina is also "illegally segregating people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in institutions or putting them at risk of institutionalization." A combination of inattention to disabled peoples' needs and lack of funding is causing DHHS to violate a law against forcing people into institutions to get the care they need. An order from Judge Allen Baddour two weeks ago is hopefully the first step in reforming our broken disability services system.

North Carolina is failing its trans citizens as well: after being asked for her ID last November, which was not required, a transgender woman sued "North Carolina and Mecklenburg County election officials... claiming she was denied equal protection under state law and endured emotional stress when a Cornelius elections official questioned her identity last November. I very much hope she has a better experience voting this coming March.

Your good news ending this week might be better than you think: only months after they paid for it, the Raleigh Police Department is cancelling its use of the controversial and terrifying facial recognition software Clearview AI (paywall after 5 articles/month). "We do not intend to resume use of Clearview AI," a statement from the Raleigh PD reads.

gif via giphy

Tags: (ICYMI, NCGA, 2020 elections, Silent Sam, ECU, Bladen county, voter ID, McClatchy, #onetermthom, Phil Berger)

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