Commentary, News

New poll: Voters of all stripes agree that NC electoral maps are rigged

Good government advocates will descend on the Legislative Building this morning to demand that lawmakers make good on their commitment to consider legislation in 2017 that would establish a fair and nonpartisan redistricting process. And, judging by a new poll released this morning, the honorables would do well to pay attention. This is from the good folks ta Democracy North carolina:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Trump Supporters, Black Voters Agree: District Maps are Rigged
New Poll Supports Voters’ Call for Redistricting Reform

RALEIGH, N.C. — What’s one thing that Donald Trump supporters and African Americans in North Carolina agree on? By large majorities, according to a new poll, they think the way state legislators draw their political districts is unfair and too influenced by partisan politics.

The poll, commissioned by the nonpartisan group Democracy North Carolina, reveals unusually broad support across the political spectrum for redistricting reform.

Overall, four out of five North Carolina voters (80%) say it’s not fair for politicians to draw their own districts. That includes 85% of Democrats, 74% of Republicans, 80% of independents – as well as 70% of Trump supporters and 80% of African Americans.

The poll also shows that voters want elected leaders who will change the system.

A majority of Democrats (58%) and Republicans (56%) agreed they’d be more likely to vote for candidates who support an impartial method for drawing voting districts. Support for reform is even more important among the crucial sector of unaffiliated voters; 68% say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who favors an impartial redistricting system.

“People recognize that politicians are choosing their voters, instead of the other way around,” said Democracy NC spokesperson Jen Jones. “By using computers, politicians can draw lines that separate voters by race and party, create safe districts, and shield themselves from the will of the people. It’s not fair, and voters across party lines want the process to change.”

Full poll results here.

Democracy NC is a member of the NC Coalition for Lobbying and Governmental Reform, which spans the liberal-conservative spectrum, from the NC Justice Center to the John Locke Foundation. The coalition is holding a press conference at 10:30 today in front of the General Assembly that features the diverse voices of ordinary citizens who support redistricting reform.

The citizens are presenting thousands of petitions to NC House Speaker Tim Moore later today. They are also using the poll’s findings to show legislators the breadth of support for reform.

The poll says a solid majority of all voters, regardless of age, race, gender or party affiliation think the current process of legislators drawing districts is wrong and too partisan. Opposition is strongest among women, and the importance of choosing a candidate who favors reform increases with the voters’ age. About equal shares of white and black (81% v. 80%) voters think the current system is unfair, but black voters are more likely than whites (94% v. 59%) to be very concerned about the influence of partisan favoritism on how maps are drawn.

The poll was conducted April 4-5 by Public Policy Polling and has a +/- error margin of 4%.

Democracy North Carolina is a statewide nonpartisan organization that uses research, organizing, and training to increase civic participation, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and remove systemic barriers to voting and serving in elected office.

 

Commentary

Editorial: Cooper right to veto two GOP power grab bills

The Fayetteville Observer has another fine editorial praising on Governor Cooper’s latest vetoes of Republican power grabbing legislation. This is from “North Carolina politics triumph over impartial, efficient justice”:

The first of the two bills is a try-try-again effort by lawmakers to merge the state’s ethics and elections boards into a single eight-member body equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. A three-judge panel last month tossed out an earlier attempt to create such a board and this new version tries to tiptoe around the judges’ constitutional concerns. While Republicans say the board would fairly represent both parties, the reality is that it likely would create gridlock — deadlocked 4-4 votes on any proposed changes in election procedures that would thus leave in place Republican decisions made during former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration.

Worse, adding the responsibilities of dealing with ethics complaints and debating regulations would further bog down the combined board, quite possibly creating an anything-goes ethical environment in Raleigh, which for some lawmakers might turn out to be a much-appreciated license to steal.

Cooper said the election-ethics bill is “the same unconstitutional legislation in another package, and it’s an attempt to make it harder for people to register and vote.” Cooper urged lawmakers to “stop electoral manipulation, which, like gerrymandering, is what’s wrong with politics.”

Well, it’s one thing that’s wrong with politics. There are others, and that includes the second measure Cooper vetoed Friday, a bill that will reduce the state Court of Appeals from 15 members to 12. The only rationale for the bill is political — it prevents Cooper from appointing Democratic judges to three upcoming vacancies that will occur when members reach the mandatory retirement age of 72. But as the governor pointed out Friday, it will put a heavier workload on the remaining dozen judges, who generally hear cases in three-judge panels. It also will slow the administration of justice, because appeals won’t be heard as quickly.

A Republican Court of Appeals judge gave credence to Cooper’s position when he resigned from his seat on Monday, rather than wait until his mandatory retirement date arrived next month. His was one of the three vacancies Republicans wanted to prevent Cooper from filling. Judge Doug McCullough filed his letter of resignation and Cooper quickly appointed Democrat John Arrowood to the seat. McCullough told The News & Observer that he didn’t want his legacy to be “impairment to the appeals court” because of its reduced size. “It makes it administratively awkward, and we would end up deciding fewer cases.

Yet to the lawmakers who also decided to force all judges’ political parties to be listed on ballots, it’s clear that partisanship is paramount in our legal system, easily besting virtues like efficiency, effectiveness or impartiality.

Cooper’s veto was the right reaction to both of these political statements. When the legislative majority overrides him, at least their constituents will know which values they hold highest.

Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend

The Republican power grabs just keep on a comin’ in Raleigh and so do the denunciations by the state’s leading newspapers. Yesterday’s lead editorial in the Wilmington Star News is the latest to blast GOP’s dishonest remake of the state Court of Appeals — what it calls a “naked grab for partisan power.” Here are some highlights:

Four former chief justices of the state Supreme Court, one of them a Republican, believe the N.C. General Assembly is taking actions that “seriously harm our judicial system” and “hurt the people of our State,” according to a story in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

In a letter to Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, the former justices criticized a bill adopted by the GOP-dominated legislature cutting the Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12….

This latest move appears to continue the General Assembly’s effort to reach into every aspect of governance and render it almost irrevocably Republican.

After Cooper was elected, the Honorables limited the number of staffers appointed by the governor. They also began requiring Senate approval of cabinet secretaries. There was no such requirement for Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. That decision is being challenged in court.

The courts are also pondering changes imposed on state and local elections boards that weaken the power of the governor and of Democrats in local districts during years of crucial elections. A U.S. District Court judge said the General Assembly’s attempt to redraw district lines for Greensboro City Council is unconstitutional.

Last year, the courts threw out the congressional maps drawn up by the Honorables, forcing a special primary. We’re still awaiting a ruling on the General Assembly’s state legislative districting plan.

And last year, the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a voter ID law it said was designed to disenfranchise minority voters.

The list goes on.

There’s no imperative to reduce the number of judges on the Court of Appeals. This is not “good governance,” as our state constitution mandates. It is another naked grab for partisan power.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen it before.

Commentary, News

Cooper vetoes latest GOP power grab bills

Governor Roy Cooper has vetoed two more of the embarrassingly partisan and ill-conceived government reorganization bills sent to him by the Republican General Assembly. This time the bills in question are Senate Bill 68 (the proposal to create the laughably misnamed “Bipartisan Board Elections and Ethics Enforcement”) and House Bill 239 (the proposal to shrink the state Court of Appeals just in time to deny Cooper the right to replace three soon-to-retire Republican judges). As Cooper’s understated veto messages make clear, the bills ought to be called the “Hyperpartisan Republican Elections and Ethics Gridlock Act” and the Let’s Guarantee GOP Control of the Courts Act.”

This is from Cooper’s veto message:

House Bill 239:

“Having three fewer judges will increase the court’s workload and delay timely appeals. Just as bad is the real motivation of Republican legislators, which is to stack the court with judges of their own party. Earlier this session, Republican legislators already injected partisan politics into our courts by slapping political party labels on all judicial races.

A bipartisan group of former state Supreme Court chief justices said that this bill would “seriously harm our judicial system” and “hurt the people of our state.” In addition, I believe this legislation is unconstitutional, and we should all be concerned about unwarranted attacks on the judiciary.”

Senate Bill 68:

This is the same unconstitutional legislation in another package, and it’s an attempt to make it harder for people to register and vote.

Changing the State Board of Elections to a 4-4 partisan split and local county board of elections to a 2-2 partisan split will result in deadlocked votes.

It’s a scheme to ensure that Republicans control state and county boards of elections in Presidential election years when the most races are on the ballot.

The North Carolina Republican Party has a track record of trying to influence Board of Elections members to make it harder for people to vote and have fair elections. Under this bill, that same party controls the pool of appointments of half the state and county elections boards.

I urge legislators to set the right priorities for North Carolina and stop electoral manipulation, which, like gerrymandering, is what’s wrong with politics.”

Let’s hope lawmakers come to their senses and sustain the vetoes.

Commentary, Trump Administration

Editorial: Save program for undocumented kids

The Greensboro News & Record has a fine editorial this morning that’s worth a few minutes of your time. “Save DACA” highlights the troubling signs that the Trump administration is chipping away at the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — the Obama- era immigration policy that allows kids brought to the U.S. as young children to stay, even if they’re technically undocumented, so long as they stay out of trouble.

After relating the story of a DACA youth who was almost wrongfully deported (the Trump administration said it used its “discretion” to let her stay) and pointing out that the program is still in effect, the editorial concluded this way:

In fact, the agency is following a presidential directive that is still in force. President Barack Obama’s executive order establishing the DACA program was one of his finest actions, making so much sense that Trump hasn’t touched it. At least not officially.

Yet, there are worrisome signs. Asked about the Montes case on Fox News Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “The policy is that if people are here unlawfully, they’re subject to being deported.” His statement didn’t acknowledge that DACA status means individuals are here lawfully and should not be subject to deportation.

If Trump overturns DACA, he should be prepared to deport not only college students but members of our armed forces or spouses of military men and women. Also “subject to being deported” will be bright young people who hold professional jobs or are otherwise gainfully employed, paying taxes, starting families and contributing to their communities.

Even people who view all illegal immigrants as “criminals” must recognize that small children aren’t committing crimes when their parents carry them across a border. The children didn’t choose to enter the United States, and by the time they’ve grown up, they don’t know any home other than this country. Yanking them from their American lives and sending them to a foreign “homeland” is cruel to them and bad for the U.S.

ICE has plenty of high-priority illegal immigrants it should target for arrest and deportation. It’s not a matter of “discretion” to leave DACA participants alone. It’s good policy and a presidential order.

Click here to read the entire editorial.