Posts by Rob Schofield

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Defending Democracy, News

Voting rights group: Court’s ruling assures errors in mailed ballots will be cured

Image: NC State Board of Elections

There’s been a great deal of legal back and forth in recent weeks regarding the issue of mailed ballots in North Carolina and while there remain differences of opinion as to what’s best and constitutional when it comes to assuring that voters get a chance to cure any errors they may have made, voting rights advocates are expressing happiness at where things stand after a federal judge’s ruling earlier this week.

The following release was distributed late yesterday afternoon by advocates at Democracy North Carolina:

FEDERAL COURT RULING CLARIFIES PROCESS FOR “CURING” MAIL-IN BALLOT ERRORS IN NORTH CAROLINA

Morrisville, N.C. — North Carolina voters will now have greater clarity surrounding the mail-in ballot process, specifically on how to correct mistakes on their ballot envelope. Following a ruling in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Judge William L. Osteen upheld a previous preliminary injunction he issued in August in Democracy North Carolina et al v. North Carolina Board of Elections et al requiring county boards of elections to notify voters of possible issues with mail-in ballot envelopes and provide voters an opportunity to fix mistakes.

The plaintiffs in the case, including voting rights group Democracy North Carolina, represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Fair Elections Center, and pro bono counsel from law firm WilmerHale, asked Judge Osteen to enforce the injunction following unclear guidance from the North Carolina State Board of Elections on the notification and remedy process, known as “curing.”

Democracy North Carolina’s Executive Director Tomas Lopez called the ruling a preservation of the organization’s earlier legal victory, “As record numbers of North Carolina voters continue to take advantage of voting by mail for the first time, we know that hundreds have already had their ballots cured by a process secured by our lawsuit this summer,” said Lopez. “Today’s holding preserves this legal victory and allows for consistent absentee cure administration across North Carolina’s 100 counties, providing absentee voters with the assurances they need to trust their votes cast will be counted and any deficiencies can be resolved efficiently.”

Under the rulings, voters who cast their ballots by mail will be able to correct at least the following errors on the ballot envelope without having their ballot spoiled and starting anew:

  • Voter did not sign the voter certification,
  • Voter signed in the wrong place,
  • Witness or assistant did not print name,
  • Witness or assistant did not print address, and/or
  • Witness or assistant signed on the wrong

Ballot envelopes missing a witness signature will still be spoiled (not counted), although voters will receive notice and will be able to cast a new ballot. The State Board of Elections announced on Thursday morning that they plan to issue further clarifying guidance.

The first mail-in ballots in North Carolina were sent to voters on Sept. 4; ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 12 to be counted in the General Election.

COVID-19, News

Like the others, Trump Greenville rally appears to violate White House Coronavirus Task Force recommendations

Screenshot from Trump’s Greenville speech

As President Trump spoke at a campaign rally in Greenville this afternoon, his own coronavirus task force was asking North Carolinians to follow CDC guidelines that specifically discourage events like it.

The CDC guidelines are referenced in a new report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, dated Sunday, Oct. 11, and made public Wednesday. Among other things, those guidelines urge the following:

  • Put 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household.
  • Everyone should wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Meanwhile, this is from a series of rally updates from WITN News:

President Donald Trump greeted thousands of supporters at the Pitt-Greenville Airport this afternoon.

The rally started shortly after 1:30 p.m. as the president was late leaving Washington, D.C.

The president, who earlier this month contracted COVID-19, and his aids boarded the aircraft at Joint Base Andrews without any face masks.

At the airport in Greenville, supporters are standing side-by-side and many are not wearing masks.

Trump’s rally came on the same day that North Carolina reported its highest single-day number of new coronavirus cases.

The White House task force report includes several specific recommendations for North Carolina, including:

  • Rural states and areas, which were spared early in the epidemic, are now seeing the most intense increase in transmission, highlighting the need to intensify community mitigation efforts in these areas.
  • Community messaging and policy needs to be consistent and targeted and should be developed by reviewing data and public health rationale with community members and representatives.

And these are among the report findings:

  • North Carolina is in the red zone for cases, indicating 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population last week, with the 23rd highest rate in the country. North Carolina is in the yellow zone for test positivity, indicating a rate between 5.0% and 7.9%, with the 23rd highest rate in the country.
  • North Carolina has seen an increase in new cases and stability in test positivity over the last week.
  • During the week of Sep 28 – Oct 4, 15% of nursing homes had at least one new resident COVID-19 case, 26% had at least one new staff COVID-19 case, and 6% had at least one new resident COVID-19 death; 10 or more resident cases were diagnosed in facilities in Arden, Rocky Mount, Wadesboro, Salisbury, Rutherfordton, Carthage, and Forest City and 27 facilities reported 3 or more resident cases.
  • North Carolina had 122 new cases per 100,000 population in the last week, compared to a national average of 100 per 100,000.

Click here to watch a video recording of Trump’s appearance.

Commentary

“Fragile Democracy”: See video of Crucial Conversation with James Leloudis and Robert Korstad here

In case you missed Tuesday’s Policy Watch Crucial Conversation with Professors Jim Leloudis and Bob Korstad about their new and powerful book, Fragile Democracy: The struggle over race and voting rights in North Carolina you can click here to check out the video.

And, if you get a chance, be sure to check out the enormously informative and attractive digital exhibit that is available on the book’s website.

Commentary, News

Elon poll: Rush to reopen schools driven by a noisy minority

Image: Adobe Stock

If one listened to a number of North Carolina political commentators — particularly on the right — a person would get the impression that a large majority of North Carolinians have been clamoring for schools to reopen ASAP. According to this oft-repeated spiel, Gov. Cooper is wrongfully stifling “freedom” by continuing to enforce public health restrictions in response to the pandemic and North Carolinians are increasingly up in arms about it.

Wrong.

As a new Elon University poll highlighted this morning by Raleigh’s News & Observer makes clear, North Carolinians understand the risks that continue from COVID-19. Indeed, if anything, the numbers indicate that Cooper may be proceeding too quickly with reopening. This is from the N&O story entitled “NC residents don’t want to rush reopening of schools and businesses, new poll finds”:

The majority of North Carolina residents back using a go-slow approach to reopening public schools and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Elon University poll.

In the poll released Thursday, 77% of respondents said it was a good decision for most North Carolina public schools to offer only online classes instead of in-person classes at the start of the school year.

Only 28% of respondents said the timing of the state’s phased reopening of businesses has been too slow. Also, 28% said the state’s coronavirus rules and regulations have been too restrictive. The majority of respondents felt the state’s response was just right or wasn’t restrictive enough.

The new findings mirror results from a June Elon poll when 21% said the state’s rules were too restrictive. People who want the state to reopen immediately haven’t grown substantially since the summer, according to Jason Husser, director of the Elon University poll.

The poll also found voters to be lukewarm on the school reopening that’s been taking place:

Poll respondents were split on when students should return — 48% said most schools shouldn’t return to full-time in-person instruction for most students until there’s a vaccine and/or treatment for COVID-19 or until the start of next school year. That compared to 42% who said students should return either as soon as possible, in the next few months or before the end of the school year.

The bottom line: North Carolinians grasp the ongoing deadly seriousness of the pandemic, appreciate the impossible political and public health tight rope that the Cooper administration is trying to walk and, if anything, want the Governor to stay extremely cautious going forward. The “reopen” movement remains a noisy minority.

Click here to read the entire article.

Commentary

Nominee Barrett’s answer on this question from Kamala Harris is hard to believe

As  Adam Liptak of the New York Times reported last evening, Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s answers to the questions Senate Judiciary Committee members posed yesterday represented, for the most part, a “deft mix of expertise and evasion”:

Judge Barrett seemed to have studied recent hearings carefully, absorbing their lessons. They were presciently summarized in a 1981 memorandum written by a young White House lawyer named John G. Roberts Jr., who helped prepare Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, another Reagan nominee, for her confirmation hearings.

“The approach was to avoid giving specific responses to any direct questions on legal issues likely to come before the court,” the memo said, “but demonstrating in the response a firm command of the subject area and awareness of the relevant precedents and arguments.”

Screenshot taken on Oct. 13 at Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Cal.) addressed Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett

That said, there was at least one important moment last evening when, under questioning from California Senator and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, Barrett offered a thoroughly unbelievable response. As Maanvi Singh of The Guardian reported, the exchange centered on the debate over the future of the Affordable Care Act. After delivering a speech about the importance of the law, Harris then posed a question to Barrett. This is from Singh’s account:

She then addressed Barrett: “Prior to your nomination, were you aware of President Trump’s statement committing to nominate judges who will strike down the Affordable Care Act? And I’d appreciate a yes or no answer.”

Barrett maintained that before she was nominated to the Supreme Court, she was unaware of his public statements. “I don’t recall hearing about or seeing such statements,” Barrett said.

Harris asked how many months after Barrett wrote an article criticizing John Roberts’ decision upholding the Affordable Care Act she received her nomination for her appeals court position.

“The Affordable Care Act and all of its protections hinge on this seat,” Harris said.

“I would hope the committee would trust my integrity,” Barrett said, noting, as she has done throughout the hearings, that she has not made any commitments to rule a certain way on the healthcare law.

The assertion, and Barrett’s implication that she had somehow tuned out the president’s loud, public criterion for judges he’d appoint, is difficult to believe.

Indeed, it is. And the evasion goes right to the heart of the deep and fundamental flaw of Barrett’s candidacy for the Court — as well as those of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Simply put, any judge who would happily appear at the White House to accept a nomination from a serial liar and would-be autocrat like Donald Trump — a man who has quite blatantly and publicly articulated and established litmus tests for potential nominees — and then pretend to be unaware of those tests is simply not to be believed.

Barrett has known for some time that she was a potential nominee for the Supreme Court. Asking us to believe that she was unaware of the conditions Trump had publicly announced he would apply in selecting such a person indicates that another virus may have been spreading at that infamous Rose Garden ceremony: Trump’s incurable case of deceitfulness.

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