Commentary, News

Renee Ellmers nabs gig in Trump administration

Renee Ellmers has been named to a mid-level post in the Trump administration. The former North Carolina congresswoman, who initially won election as a conservative political outsider in 2010 and then saw herself branded as a traitor to the conservative cause by groups like the Koch brother-funded Americans for Prosperity — a switch that helped lead to her defeat in a 2016 Republican primary with George Holding (this despite her endorsement of Donald Trump) — has been named the Regional Director for Region 4 of the Department of Health and Human Services in Atlanta.

This is from an email sent by the acting director, Natalie Brevard Perry:

Dear valued stakeholders:

I am pleased to formally welcome Renee Ellmers as the new Regional Director for HHS Region 4, effective Monday!  After orientation at HHS Headquarters, her first day in Atlanta will be Wednesday, May 24, 2017.

Ms. Ellmers comes to us from the great state of North Carolina with a strong background in public service. For the past six years, she served as the U.S. Representative for North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. In Congress, she served on the Health Subcommittee of the Energy & Commerce Committee.  Ms. Ellmers shared “I ran for office in 2010 because of the changes that were happening in healthcare policy; I wanted to be a voice for healthcare providers. After the 2016 election, I saw an opportunity to join the Department of Health and Human Services to serve the American people by helping the Administration provide patient-centered, quality healthcare.”

Ms. Ellmers is a Registered Nurse. She received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Oakland University. She currently lives in Dunn, North Carolina with her husband of 23 years, Brent, who is a General Surgeon, and her son Ben, a student at North Carolina University.

Welcome, Ms. Ellmers!

It will be interesting to see what the folks at AFP have to say about this appointment of someone whose defeat the group described as “a victory for economic freedom and a testament to the grassroots movement.” Although the announcement doesn’t make it clear, one presumes Ellmers will not be attempting to commute to such an important post from Dunn and will be moving to Atlanta.

Commentary, News

Activists to rally for healthcare at the General Assembly this evening

Despite the wet weather, organizers are still expecting a large gathering this evening at the General Assembly as the Forward Together movement led by Rev. William Barber rallies for healthcare access for all North Carolinians. This is from an announcement distributed by the N.C. Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Project:

TONIGHT: Rally for Health Care at the General Assembly in Raleigh at 6:00 p.m.

Join us tonight for a rally to save our health care outside the North Carolina General Assembly at 6:00 p.m.!

Earlier this month, the United States House of Representatives narrowly passed a disastrous health care bill to take away coverage from 24 million Americans and eviscerate the Medicaid program. On top of that, nine of North Carolina’s congressman voted for it. The fate of our nation’s health care now rests in the hands of the Senate.

On top of that, we have half a million North Carolinians that have been shut out of health coverage options because of the North Carolina General Assembly’s failure to expand access to Medicaid coverage.

These lawmakers need to hear from us. Now is the time to make your voice heard! Join us and our allies at the North Carolina NAACP to rally for our nation’s health care.

Click here to join us today outside the General Assembly in Raleigh to tell lawmakers to protect our health care!

And here is a preview video produced by the organizers:

Commentary

Simple solutions department: How lawmakers ought to respond to yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling

The lead editorial in this morning’s Greensboro News & Record offers a simple and logical solution for state lawmakers as they ponder yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on redistricting: end partisan gerrymandering now.

As the N&R editorial concludes:

“While justices argue among themselves, the rest of us can hope Monday’s ruling will lead to fairer elections. Politically, North Carolina is a closely divided state. Yet, not one of the 13 U.S. House races last year was competitive. The districts are stacked — 10 favoring Republicans and three heavily tilted for Democrats. The court’s majority found the legislature used race as the primary factor in creating two of those districts. It also recognized the link between race and partisan politics.

Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC, a plaintiff in the case coming up, believes the court fashioned a legal bridge. ‘Partisan gerrymandering is just as wrong as racial gerrymandering,’ he said Monday. His group supports nonpartisan redistricting. It’s past time to give that a try.

Amen. To learn more about the fight Phillips and his friends are waging, check out http://endgerrymanderingnow.org/.

News

BREAKING: U.S. Supreme Court upholds decision striking down NC congressional map

Here’s the interesting headline from Supreme Court watcher Professor Rick Hasen, who edits Election Law Blog:

Breaking and Analysis: Supreme Court on 5-3 Vote Affirms NC Racial Gerrymandering Case, with Thomas in Majority and Roberts in Dissent

The Supreme Court has issued this 5-3 opinion in Cooper v. Harris. Justice Kagan wrote the opinion for the Court, with Justice Thomas making the fifth vote for affirmance. Chief Justice Robert and Justices Alito and Kennedy dissented. That is an interesting lineup, to be sure.

Here’s the conclusion to Justice Kagan’s opinion:

“Applying a clear error standard, we uphold the District Court’s conclusions that racial considerations predominated in designing both District 1 and District 12. For District 12, that is all we must do, because North Carolina has made no attempt to justify race-based districting there. For District 1, we further uphold the District Court’s decision that §2 of the VRA gave North Carolina no good reason to reshuffle voters because of their race. We accordingly affirm the judgment of the District Court.”

State Senator Jeff Jackson (a lawyer from Mecklenburg County) offered this explanation of the ruling and its potential impact in a series of tweets:

“Breaking: U.S. Supreme Court rules that NC’s 2011 congressional map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered. The congressional map has since been redrawn, so this ruling doesn’t force a redraw – it just upholds the new congressional districts. We’re still waiting to hear whether/when our General Assembly will have to redraw its map, but this is a positive sign. Quick reminder: Even under the “new & improved” map, our closest congressional race was won by 15%. And that’s in a state that votes 50/50. Bottom-line for Supreme Court: NC GOP set target of at least 50% African American voters in 2 congressional districts, and you can’t do that. Bodes well for General Assembly case because GOP set the same 50%+ standard in 28 districts in the state legislature. Same rule should apply.”

Hasen and others are still processing the 79 page ruling. Stand by: We’ll have more details as they become available.

Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend

The Asheville Citizen-Times had a fine editorial over the weekend entitled “Dear NCGA: Step away from the ballot box and move on.” As the editorial rightfully explains:

“Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has put the issue to rest, more or less, the North Carolina General Assembly should stop trying to undermine the integrity of the electoral system by seeking to disenfranchise voters.

Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen. But we can still ask.

Last week the justices refused to consider an appellate decision striking down key portions of North Carolina’s voter ID law. While Chief Justice John Roberts stressed that the court was not ruling on the merits of the case, the effect was to keep the law off the books.

Leaders of the General Assembly took Roberts’ words as a license to stay their course. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger said that ‘all North Carolinians can rest assured that Republican legislators will continue fighting to protect the integrity of our elections by implementing the commonsense requirement to show a photo ID when we vote.’

They in fact are the ones attacking the integrity of elections, as the Richmond-based Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals made clear when it reversed a trial court decision upholding the law. The restrictions the state enacted ‘target African-Americans with almost surgical precision,’ the judges wrote. The law, they said, was adopted with ‘discriminatory intent.’

In addition to barring the state from requiring voter ID at the polls, the decision restored a week of early voting and preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and ensured that same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting would remain in effect.

The legislators evidently assume that African-Americans are likely to favor Democrats at the polls, a not unreasonable assumption considering how many Republicans in the South have treated African-Americans ever since the infamous Southern strategy of the Nixon years….

Opponents of the law greeted the latest development with approval. The ‘announcement is good news for North Carolina voters. We need to be making it easier to vote, not harder,’ Gov. Roy Cooper said in a release, adding that he ‘will continue to work to protect the right of every legal, registered North Carolinian to participate in our democratic process.’

The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said it’s time for Republicans to stop proposing new restrictions. ‘We urge the General Assembly to finally accept that racially discriminatory laws have no place in our democracy, and certainly not when it comes to the sacred right to vote,’ Barber said in a release.

It would be nice if legislative leaders would pay attention. First, the General Assembly has lots of other things to do. Second, efforts to suppress voting undermine public trust in elections and in government.

Sadly, those leaders seem determined to put partisan considerations ahead of the integrity of the electoral system.”