News

NC absentee ballot requests top one million. What do we know about these voters?

If you requested an absentee ballot and are still waiting for it to arrive in the mail, you’re not alone.

According to the State Board of Elections, 1,028,648 requests for an absentee ballot had been received as of September 24th.

Roughly 22% (227,761 of those ballot requests) have been returned and processed.

Catawba College political scientist Dr. Michael Bitzer and the good folks at Old North State Politics have been taking a closer look at those who have already voted absentee by mail and here’s what they learned:

Source: Old North State Politics

And here’s a look at how things have been trending over the past two weeks:

Source: Old North State Politics

Learn more @OldNorthStPol

North Carolina voters, including voters serving in the military or living overseas, can request an absentee ballot online through the Absentee Ballot Request Portal.

The deadline to request your absentee ballot for the General Election is October 27th.

Courts & the Law, News

Burr joins Tillis in move to appoint replacement to Ginsburg seat “as early as possible”

Senator Richard Burr

U.S. Senator Richard Burr is joining Senator Thom Tillis in backing President Trump’s rush to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ginsburg, who served on the nation’s highest court for more than 27 years, died Friday at 87 from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Burr who recognized Ginsburg as “a trailblazer and a tireless advocate for equality”released a statement Tuesday making it clear that he would not support any delay in selecting her replacement:

“The President has every right under the Constitution to nominate the individual of his choosing to fill the current Supreme Court vacancy. The Senate’s role is to provide its advice and consent. In this instance, unlike 2016, Americans voted to ensure the Senate and Presidency are both held by the same party. I believe the Senate should consider President Trump’s nominee as early as possible and I intend to carefully review their qualifications once that individual is named.”

For the record, Burr was opposed to holding confirmation hearings four years for Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Here’s what Burr posted to his Facebook page in March 2016, ten months before the election.

Ginsburg’s body will lie in repose at the Supreme Court today and on Thursday so the public can pay respects to the cultural icon.

COVID-19, News

As nation tops 200,000 COVID deaths, NC rolls out new tracking app, gets ready to open large outdoor venues

The NC Department of Health and Human Services has launched a new tool to help the state alert North Carolinians to if they have been exposed to COVID-19.

The free and voluntary app – ‘SlowCOVIDNC’ – leverages Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification System and will alert users if they have been in close contact with an individual who later tests positive for COVID-19.

“I want to be clear on what it does not do,” explained NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen. “It does not collect, use or share any personal information. It does not use GPS  or know your location. It does use Bluetooth and does know if you’ve come into close range of another phone that also has the SlowCOVIDNC app.”

Through Bluetooth, phones with the SlowCOVIDNC app work in the background exchanging  anonymous “tokens” every few minutes. Phones record how long they are near each other and the Bluetooth signal strength of their exchanges in order to estimate distance.

If a person with the app tests positive, the individual may obtain a unique PIN to submit in the app. This voluntary and anonymous reporting notifies others who have downloaded the app that they may have been in close contact with someone in the last 14 days who has tested positive.

Sec. Cohen believes the new app will be especially useful in slowing the spread of the coronavirus on college campuses with students living in dorms or sharing off-campus apartments.

“The more folks that download it [the app] the better,” Cohen said. “If more folks have the app, it means it’s going to be able to signal to you if you’ve had an exposure.”

The launch of the app comes just days before the state is expected to announce the further easing of restrictions.

Governor Roy Cooper said his office will announce next week if key metrics continue to hold that larger outdoor event venues will be allowed to reopen at seven percent capacity starting October 2nd.

“We share this news today so that those outdoor venues with seating capacity of more than 10,000 can begin preparations that are key to safely reopening their doors to have a limited amount of socially distanced fans,” said Cooper.

The governor has been under pressure in recent weeks from sports fans that want to be back in the stadiums for the fall football season.

For Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte (with a capacity of 75,523 seats) it would mean roughly 5,286 fans could attend in person. At Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh (with a capacity of 58,000) it would mean 4,060 fans in attendance. Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill (with a capacity of 51,000) could accommodate 3,570 fans under the proposed guidelines.

Look for more details on those restrictions being lifted next week.

The governor also announced on Tuesday an additional $40 million in COVID relief funds for small businesses.

The N.C. Mortgage, Utility and Rent Relief (MURR) funds will be  administered by the state  Department of Commerce and will  provide up to $20,000 in relief  per qualifying business location.

Applicants can apply for up to four months of mortgage interest or rent expenses and utility expenses.

The Department of Commerce will begin accepting applications in the next two weeks.

For additional information on the program, visit www.nccommerce.com/murr.

North Carolina recorded 1,168 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, a number that has been holding steady for the past week, with 905 people hospitalized.

Nationally, COVID-19 has infected 6.8 million Americans and now accounted for 200,477 deaths in our country, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.

Click below to learn more about the new app to slow the spread of COVID-19.

News

How North Carolinians are remembering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Congressman David Price:

“On the bench, Justice Ginsburg led with brilliance, integrity, and fortitude. Justice Ginsburg also remained resilient while facing personal obstacles throughout her life such as caring for her seriously ill husband or battling cancer. As an exemplary public servant who looked out for the long-term health of the American people and our democracy, she leaves enormous shoes that won’t easily be filled.

“Justice Ginsburg left a final statement with her granddaughter: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new President is installed.” Any senator with a shred of integrity must honor this wish, particularly in light of the Republican Senate’s refusal to schedule a vote for President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland throughout 2016. To rush a Trump nominee to a Senate vote would not only be breathtaking hypocrisy; it could irreparably compromise and damage the Court.”

 

 

 

COVID-19, News

Republicans press Cooper to fully open public schools; Lt. Governor dismisses mask mandate

Senate President Phil Berger and Lt. Governor Dan Forest openly criticized Governor Roy Cooper’s approach to reopening schools during the pandemic Wednesday, saying schools must fully be opened for in-person instruction.

“Governor Cooper created this problem, and he needs to fix it,” said Sen. Berger. “He needs to direct school districts to give parents the option of full-time, five day a week in-person instruction now.”

Berger said the governor has relied on allies with the NC Association of Educators (NCAE) to have too much sway in the decision making process.

Gov. Cooper and state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced in July schools would open for in-person instruction under an updated Plan B that required face coverings for all K-12 students, fewer children in the classroom, measures to ensure social distancing, and other safety protocols.

Many local school districts used the flexibility they were granted to start the new school year under Plan C with remote-only  instruction.

Lt. Governor Dan Forest said parents should make the ultimate decision about whether their children stay home for online learning or return to the classroom with other students.

“These schools know how to open safely. They can follow the lead of schools all over the world and do that. They can make it safe for their administrators. They can make it safe for their teachers. They can make it safe for their students. Most importantly, they can let the parents decide,” said Forest.

The lieutenant governor also dismissed the guidance that masks or face coverings should be required as a measure of protection against the spread of COVID-19 for students, teachers and staff.

“I’m not gonna get into the mask debate here. There is evidence all over the world from studies that have been done for decades now that are contrary to that,” maintained Forest.

Catherine Truitt, the Republican candidate for NC School Superintendent, also voiced support for seeing students return to the classroom. Truitt said special needs students and those facing hunger require resources they simply cannot receive at home.

“There are too many students being left behind. Our state and most importantly our students, cannot afford for this to be a lost year of learning,” Truitt said.

Joining the Republicans in their push were several parents including Tara Deane, who said her special needs children have suffered as a result of being forced to stay at home during the pandemic.

“COVID isn’t killing my children right now, but they are dying inside from a lack of schedule and due to total isolation,” explained Deane. “I am begging you to put these vulnerable children at the forefront of the discussions and decision making.”

Michele Morrow, a parent and veteran nurse, downplayed concerns by teachers who may be anxious about returning to in-person instruction.

“If you have been a school teacher for years, you have the immune system of steel,” said Morrow.

Senator Berger said the legislature has given schools sufficient funds to open safely, and lawmakers can revisit additional funding needs in January.

To date, 11%  (20,338) of North Carolina’s COVID cases have involved individuals under the age of 18.