News, Voting

YWCA poll shows top concerns, voting plans for NC women ahead of election

A new poll paid for and promoted by the YWCA shows that an overwhelming percentage of North Carolina women polled say they are certain to vote this year or have already voted. But more than a third said they aren’t sure if their vote will be counted accurately.

Among the poll’s key findings:

Seventy-six percent of North Carolina women polled say they are “almost certain” to vote or have already voted, the likelihood varies widely by age. Fewer than half of of the North Carolina women 18-23 (46 percent) said they had already voted or are almost certain to do so.

Asked how they have voted or will vote, the largest percentage (41 percent) said they planned to vote by mail. Nearly as many (39 percent) said they would vote on in-person on election day while just 15 percent said they would vote early in-person.


Making financial ends meet and health care issues were the top concerns across nearly all sub-groups of those polled, across racial and partisan lines.

Financial insecurity and inequality in treatment by police, including safety from police violence, were also top concerns, especially among black women in the poll.


Changes in the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court were also much on the minds of those polled. Of those who reported an increased concern over the availability of reproductive health care and services, including the right to have a legal abortion, just over half (51 percent) said their concern is driven by a conservative shift in the makeup of the nation’s highest court.

“This has been a defining year for women,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, CEO of YWCA USA. “The COVID-19 pandemic and the female-driven ‘shecession’ have intensified women’s concerns about affordable healthcare and economic security. Even though there are doubts about the electoral process, women remain motivated to have our voices heard in this election.”

See the full poll results, including information about methodology, here.

Education, Higher Ed

UNC-Pembroke chancellor: Attending Trump rally was “inconsistent” with COVID safety urged by school

UNC-Pembroke Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings says his attending a rally for President Donald Trump  in Lumberton last week was “inconsistent” with how he has encouraged students, faculty and staff to behave during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an e-mail to the university community this weekend, Cummings said he attended the rally at the invitation of Lumbee tribal members as a way to support the tribe’s quest for federal recognition.

Both Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden support federal recognition for the tribe. Trump’s announcement of his support came weeks after Biden, whose campaign has not been holding large-scale rallies due to concerns about community spread of the coronavirus.

UNC-Pembroke Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings

The U.S. has seen more than 8.7 million infections and more than 225,000 deaths, with recent spikes bringing the seven day rolling average of new cases to a new high of 68,767.

Cummings, a retired surgeon, has discouraged students, faculty and staff from attending large-scale gatherings as the school has seen a recent increase in infections and infection clusters.

“Like many in our country and across the world, you may be feeling frustrated and tired of COVID-19 affecting your daily life as it restricts our ability to connect with each other in-person,” Cumming wrote in an e-mail to the campus community just last week. “But please don’t let that stand in the way of our success. We have come so far this semester, and I ask you to please take these final weeks very seriously. We must wear our masks and practice social distancing without fail. And please, do not attend or host gatherings of any size if possible.”

One day after writing that e-mail, Cummings attended the large-scale Trump rally.

Cummings’ e-mail on attending the rally, in its entirety:


For essentially my adult life, I have consistently and strongly advocated for full federal recognition for the Lumbee Tribe. In recent weeks, many elected officials have publicly confirmed their support of Lumbee recognition, an outcome the Lumbee Tribe has worked toward over the past 100 years. Advancing and supporting this region is one of our university’s driving goals, and the impact of the education, health and housing benefits full federal recognition would bring to UNCP, Robeson County and southeastern North Carolina is a critical step forward in that path. Most importantly, recognition is the just course to correct an injustice.

I was asked to accompany a delegation of tribal members to an event in Lumberton, where the President was to offer his full support of Lumbee recognition efforts. Both presidential candidates have expressed their support for the Lumbee people, and I remain grateful to them and all who support these long-overdue efforts regardless of political affiliation.

My commitment and passion for tribal recognition influenced my decision to attend the announcement. I understand and accept the concern and disappointment over participation in a gathering that was well over our campus limitations. While I did maintain social distancing given the seating arrangement provided and wore my mask throughout the event, it was still inconsistent with how we have navigated the fall semester under my direction.


Robin Gary Cummings, MD Chancellor

Online reaction to the e-mail from students, parents and staff has been swift and negative. A number have noted the e-mail does not contain an actual apology, simply an acknowledgement from the chancellor that his behavior was “inconsistent” and that he understands and accepts peoples’ disappointment.


North Carolina mother, retired teacher shares tragedy to push for stronger gun safety laws

For Susan Browder, 2012 was a a life-changing year.

Susan Browder and her daughter Sarah.

In September her daughter, Sarah, was killed by her husband. He shot her twice with a handgun he kept in their Davie County home — once in the shoulder and once through the spine.  He then turned the gun on himself. Though he died instantly, Sarah survived for four more days in a hospital ICU — a period of shock and numbness for her family that they barely remember.

Then, in December, came the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. A 20-year old young man shot and killed 20 children and six staff members before he, too, committed suicide with a gun.

For Browder, whose roles as mother, grandmother and retired teacher defined her life, the two tragedies were devastating. But slowly, as she educated herself about gun violence through her grief, they became inspiring.

“It was an evolution where I realized I had to do something,” Browder said.

Now a volunteer with North Carolina Moms Demand Action, she shares the most painful experience of her life to spotlight the need for gun safety measures — including background checks on all gun sales and red flag laws — that might have saved her daughter’s life.

“I wasn’t fully aware of the overlap of domestic violence and gun violence,” Browder said. “Sarah was very much involved with this charming young Marine. He had some mental health issues, but she wasn’t afraid of him. Over the course of the first year of her marriage we started to see control and isolation. By the time she’d been married a year she told me and her dad that she would have to get out of the relationship. We didn’t realize her life was in danger.”

The family didn’t then know that studies have shown a handgun in the home increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.

Armed with that knowledge, Browder has for years been working to help domestic violence victims and pass what she calls common-sense gun laws that will save lives.

Had there been a stronger federal background check system in place, Browder said her son-in-law might never have had the gun that ended her daughter’s life. Had North Carolina had a “red flag” law in place the family might have been able to get a court to temporarily remove guns from a home where domestic violence was in evidence.

In this year’s election, Browder’s personal story is the centerpiece of a $120,000 campaign to send letters to voters in select North Carolina House and Senate districts where Moms Demand Action believe they can elect leaders who will finally make progress on gun safety laws.

“I’m tired of watching politicians in the state legislature prioritize their gun lobby donors over our families,” said Susan Browder. “Now, it’s time to vote them out, and elect people who will fight to keep us safe.”

Polling shows a majority of voters already support better gun laws, Browder said. Last year a Quinnipiac University poll  found 93 percent of American voters polled support requiring background checks on all gun sales. That support is strongly bipartisan, including 89 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of gun owners. Yet 22 percent of American report having made their most recent gun purchase in a way that utilized a background check loophole.

“I think people are pretty aware that gun sales have soared during the pandemic,” Browder said. “A lot of those sales are first time buyers.”

Overall gun purchase background checks are up 69 percent since last year, according to the FBI. Background checks for handgun purchases are up more than 80 percent. Those numbers only capture the sales that include checks.

That makes domestic violence concerns even more urgent, Browder said.

“There are a lot of domestic abusers who are armed for the first time in their lives,” Browder said.

North Carolina voters should keep victims like her daughter in mind when they go to the polls, Browder said, and elect candidates who are committed to doing something about it.



Courts & the Law, News

Congresswoman Alma Adams: Barrett confirmation a danger to health care in pandemic, reproductive rights

As hearings began this week on the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, Congresswoman Alma Adams of North Carolina warned of grave consequences for health care and women’s reproductive rights in a telephone town hall Monday.

“Barrett has already indicated how she would vote if a case about the [Affordable Care Act] came before her,” Adams said at the event Monday evening. “All who care about healthcare access and equity — especially for Black and Brown communities already disproportionately affected by COVID-19 — see that she is not the right choice to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

“I’m deeply concerned about what this nomination could mean for our country,” Adams said.

Congresswoman Alma Adams.

Adams and pro-choice advocates from North Carolina spoke to the danger — particularly to Black and Latinx women — of a potential shift on the nation’s highest court that could end the Affordable Care Act and overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case, leading to greater abortion restrictions.

“Based on what she said in the hearings this morning and what she has made clear in her previous rulings and political activism, Amy Coney Barrett is a threat to the health and freedom of Black women in the United States,” said Naomi Folami Randolph-Hwesuhunu, Senior Advisor at Action NC. “Repealing the Affordable Care Act, overturning Roe v. Wade and gutting the Voting Rights Act would do incredible harm to the ability of Black women and their families to thrive in this country. North Carolina’s senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr should defend their constituents against Amy Coney Barrett’s extreme views and vote against her confirmation.”

Tara Romano, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said President Donald Trump’s administration is looking to fulfill an unpopular political agenda through the courts.

“This president has promised to overturn both the ACA and Roe v. Wade,” Romano said. “Something his administration can’t do legislatively and is instead hoping to do by hijacking the U.S. Supreme Court to push their own unpopular agenda.”

With a hearing on reproductive rights facing the high court a week after the election, Adams said, the rush to confirm Barrett is deeply troubling. But the implications go beyond Roe v. Wade and the ACA, Adams said.

Barrett’s record is “a clear threat to reproductive freedom, access to health care, equality for LGBTQ-plus people, voting rights, racial justice, immigration rights and much more,” Adams said.

The rush to confirm a replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ahead of the Nov. 3 election is taking up valuable time and energy that should go to passing a new coronavirus relief package, Adams said.

“The House passed a coronavirus relief bill weeks ago and it’s still sitting on [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell’s desk,” Adams said. “Instead of passing much needed relief for our citizens, the Senate is spending its time jamming through the president’s nominee.”

Courts & the Law, News

Study examines aging NC prison population, policies keeping people imprisoned longer

Worth your time today: a new study examining the aging population of North Carolina’s prisons, the policy history that has led to people being imprisoned for longer and what that means for the system and the state.

The report, from UNC-Chapel Hill Political Science professor Frank Baumgartner and student Sydney Johnson, documents “a powerful shift toward an older prison population, based on a small share of all those incarcerated being sentenced to terms of 50 years and longer, and to the elimination of parole.”

The result: prisons that grow more like nursing homes each year.

“The system has not yet come close to reaching a steady state,” the report concludes. “So for at least the next 20 years we can expect that the number of older individuals in the system will continue to rise, and dramatically so.”

From the report:

In 1975, 140 individuals were serving sentences of over 50 years; by 2020 this number had increased to 3,820. Figure 1 shows the numbers of individuals serving terms of 50 years or more. The figure includes those with terms of more than 50 years, natural life, life without the possibility of parole, and death.

This group represented less than two percent of the prison population in 1975, but over 12 percent in 2020. No other group showed a similar increase. Table 1 shows the crimes associated with those serving these long sentences. It shows the number of and percent of Black, White, Other race, and the Total number of individuals serving long prison terms for each type of crime.



The report traces longer prison sentences to changes in sentencing beginning in 1993 that have led to a steady build-up of older prisoners.

The study also documents important racial statistics in long sentences.

“Black individuals constitute 60 percent of all those serving terms of more than 50 years. That number, however, is starkly different among women, who constitute 124 of the 3,820 individuals serving long terms. Among women, 58 percent (72 of 124) are white. Among male prisoners serving these long sentences, blacks are 52 percent of those serving for sex-related crimes, 61 percent for first-degree murder, 66 percent for second-degree murder, 67 percent for drug-related crimes, 77 percent for other and lesser crimes, 78 percent for those serving for the 6 designation of habitual felon, and 80 percent (32 of 40 individuals) serving for the designation of “violent habitual felon.” Black men, of course, represent approximately 11 percent of the North Carolina population.”


Read the full report here.