Commentary

Editorial agrees: NC “not a full democracy”

This morning’s lead editorial in the Greensboro News & Record does a good job of highlighting and explaining the recent column by UNC Chapel Hill Professor Andrew Reynolds in Raleigh’s News & Observer decrying the sad state of North Carolina’s struggling democratic institutions.

“North Carolina ranks with authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies in terms of electoral integrity, a UNC-Chapel Hill political science professor wrote in The News & Observer of Raleigh last week.

That’s an astonishing statement, but Andrew Reynolds is not an Ivory Tower pundit. He has helped set up elections in Afghanistan, Burma, Egypt and other difficult places, and he and colleagues have created measures to evaluate the quality of elections around the world.

North Carolina does not stack up well. There are many problems with voting restrictions in North Carolina, but the main reason our state stands out is for its extreme gerrymandering.

We should all understand that. It doesn’t take a doctorate in political science to see that state legislative and congressional elections aren’t competitive in North Carolina. But we may not realize just how bad it is.”

And here’s the conclusion:

“Reynolds makes a good argument that North Carolina operates like a sham democracy in critical respects. The question is what people can do to reclaim the right of real representation….

It’s possible that court-ordered legislative redistricting could lead to special elections next November held on a more nearly level playing field. The prospect of having to run in fair elections could moderate the actions of Republican legislators.

Local governments can also provide a bulwark against legislative abuses. Asheville and Charlotte have staved off legislative attempts to wrest control of their water system and airport, respectively. Greensboro has so far stopped a city council power grab. Cities should fight for their own interests every time they’re threatened by an undemocratic legislature. They can build their own moral authority by encouraging more grass-roots participation in local affairs.

Most importantly, North Carolinians must flood legislators with messages demanding democracy in Raleigh. Americans shouldn’t tolerate less.”

Not surprisingly, Reynolds has received a flood of comments regarding his column. In a follow-up in this morning’s N&O he reviews some of them and lays out some of what we need to do to reclaim our democracy.

Let’s hope his provocative stance sparks some real action.

 

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