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Good government watchdog decries GOP redistricting blockade

Democracy NC Director of Communications and Digital Strategies Jen Jones has a great op-ed running in multiple outlets about ongoing Republican efforts to, in effect, hack our elections in North Carolina. Please enjoy and share it widely.

The political hacking of N.C.

By Jen Jones

Like Russian efforts to hack U.S. elections, the N.C. legislature’s attacks on our state’s democracy have been broad and brazen.

Rev. Dr. William Barber II, taking his moral movement beyond N.C., reminded us last week on The Daily Show that our state’s racist election tampering was more of threat than Russian operatives. The observation was sobering.

And his warning unheeded, at least by too many members of the General Assembly.

Just a few days later, the N.C. Legislature pushed back against the executive and judicial branches to prop up its racially-gerrymandered districts. Despite three pronouncements in as many weeks from the U.S. Supreme Court that North Carolina’s legislative and Congressional districts were designed to pack and crack the political power of Black voters, GOP lawmakers boldly batted efforts by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s call for a special session to redraw these discriminatory districts.

Senate leader Phil Berger responded to the notion of a special session with the audacious claim that the governor’s call to fix the unconstitutionally drawn districts was “unconstitutional.”

But the political hacking hasn’t stopped there. In fact, it seems to have just started.

The GOP supermajority, crafted from these unconstitutionally-racist legislative districts, have spent months threatening to revive portions of a 2013 voter suppression law that even the Roberts Court refused to consider earlier this year.

NCGOP chair Robin Hayes has doubled down on his commitment to voter suppression, championing President Trump’s desires for lawmakers to “try again” with voter ID, a political slogan-turned weaponized tactic that has targeted our African-Americans with “surgical precision,” and has been proven to suppress votes wherever voters nationally.

Even former Gov. Pat McCrory — a political figure known to have challenged hundreds of innocent eligible voters, despite no chance of a political victory — reemerged from obscurity last week during Republican convention in North Carolina to call for a reanimation of this suppressive legislation.

It should therefore come as no surprise that this week the Civitas Institute’s Conservative Leadership Conference in Raleigh will feature some of the country’s best known architects of voter suppression legislation. Like a bad case of déjà vu, Art Pope’s minions will likely cap off weeks of propaganda defending racist gerrymandering by providing a prelude to a parade of barriers that will face voters in the final days of this long legislative session.

But extremists in the General Assembly apparently feel that the hacking of our democracy need not end in the voting booth. Rather, they are looking to blunt our state’s last line of defense against their unconstitutional tactics: the executive and judicial branches.

High-profile figures like former Court of Appeals Judge Doug McCullough, who stepped down rather than letting legislative leaders steal his seat, say some Republican lawmakers are so motivated to hack our courts that they offered to give big raises to judges who didn’t oppose their judicial coup, and threatened funding to organizations who opposed it.

The intent of these attacks is clear: with midterm elections in 2018 and a new census in 2020, the time is now to complete their conspiracy to sustain bad maps, suppress good votes, and weaken any branches of government who could stop them.

But following six years of non-stop power grabs, I see many North Carolinians with a renewed sense of purpose and energy, pulling back the General Assembly’s curtain and pushing back against these craven takeovers. Through this work — from individual constituent calls to packed in-district meetings — the public has emerged as a fourth chance for meaningful checks and balances in the state we call home.

As Dr. Barber told The New York Times this weekend, “If we’re going to change the country…It’s not from D.C. down. It’s from the states up.” And, as the good reverend’s Moral Movement has shown, within states, change comes not from the legislatures down, but from the people up.

Our state’s ability to push back against this political hacking of our system will be defined by its people and our ability to grab back the power that has been stolen from us.

Jen Jones is the Director of Communications and Digital Strategy for Democracy North Carolina, a statewide voting rights group based in Durham, NC. For ways to get involved with the fight against voter suppression, visit ncgrabsback.com.

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