Commentary

Tillis: Skillfully manipulating the media with symbolic gestures

Sen. Thom Tillis has garnered himself a smattering of national attention recently by making some modest gestures of opposition to one of Donald Trump’s most outrageous actions — the plan to fund his border wall via a declaration of national emergency. (As an aside, isn’t it interesting that he chose to speak out in the Washington Post rather than a home state news outlet?)

And while any opposition that can be mustered to the policies of the Great Prevaricator is certainly better than nothing, it needs to be pointed out that:

a) Tillis’s opposition is purely symbolic (the votes simply aren’t there to override a Trump veto on the issue), and

b) on the fights that really do matter, Tillis continues to vote and act in lockstep with Trump.

In other words, any talk of Tillis being some kind of “maverick” is just plain silly.

Take, for example, the critical issue of the ongoing right-wing assault on the federal courts. Just yesterday, Tillis continued his knee-jerk support for Trump’s parade of unqualified ideologues by supporting Allison Rushing of North Carolina, who will join the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

This is from a statement issued by the nonpartisan Alliance for Justice on Rushing (a lawyer with only nine years’ experience who once interned for a far right group backing the “recriminalization of homosexuality in the U.S.”):

“In confirming Allison Rushing, the GOP-led Senate is reaffirming that political partisanship matters much more than experience when it comes to judicial nominations under the Trump Administration. Rushing graduated from law school in 2007, so her resume is short — but it’s already packed with the kind of hard-right activities and affiliations that are de rigueur for Trump judicial nominees, including membership in the Federalist Society and work for the Alliance Defending Freedom – an extreme anti-LGBTQ group. Sadly, Rushing now has a lifetime seat on the federal bench, where she could have the opportunity to adjudicate the rights of millions of Americans for four or five decades.”

Right after that, Tillis voted to support Trump’s dreadful nomination of anti-Affordable Care Act crusader, Chad Readler. Again, here’s the Alliance for Justice — this time from a powerful post entitled “Chad Readler’s lack of conscience”:

“In his role at DOJ, Readler filed the government’s brief in the case, in which the Trump Administration argued that key provisions of the ACA were unconstitutional. Tellingly, Readler was then nominated to a highly influential federal judgeship in the Sixth Circuit – on the very same day he filed his brief.

Readler’s decision to file the brief was so striking that three Justice Department lawyers refused to sign it, and a veteran Justice Department lawyer resigned in protest. Chad Readler, in contrast, apparently could sleep at night knowing that if his legal argument was successful, over 50 million Americans, including cancer patients, people with disabilities, and pregnant women, would lose health insurance.

Should we have expected anything different from Readler? The answer, sadly, is no.

Like almost all Trump judicial nominees, Readler has a record of working to undermine constitutional rights and legal protections for all Americans. He has attacked voting rights and rights for women and LGBTQ Americans; worked to eliminate the right to public education in Ohio; defended attacks on immigrants; and sought to weaken protections for workers and consumers.”

And, of course, even as Tillis makes feints designed to win over the national media, he continues to inundate voters back home with pleas for money to help him “stand with President Trump,” fight for “border security” and “keep our country safe.”

The bottom line: Tillis is continuing to do what he’s always done — present himself to the public as a modern, affable and seemingly reasonable conservative while, at the same time, doing virtually everything in his power to advance the agenda of the far right. Let’s hope his constituents catch on soon.

Commentary

National absentee ballot expert: Five things NC needs to fix

Amber McReynolds is executive director of the National Vote at Home Institute, the former election director for Denver, Colo., and was recognized as a “Top Public Official of the Year” by Governing Magazine for her work to reform and improve the voting process. Yesterday, she published an op-ed in the Washington, DC newsletter, The Hill, (“Here’s how North Carolina can prevent election fraud from happening again”) in which she explained what North Carolina needs to do to fix it’s flawed absentee ballot system. Here are her recommendations of the issues that need to be addressed:

Burdensome witness requirements: In virtually every other state, a voter need only sign his or her ballot return envelope. Election officials compare that signature with the official signature on file before validating the ballot. In the West, we use 100 percent signature verification at the elections office, with bipartisan judges and immediate notification with a reasonable timeline to “fix” any questionable signatures.

But in North Carolina, the voter must get the ballot witnessed by two persons, 18 years or older, or by a public notary (NC Gen Stat § 163-231). This undue burden can confuse voters and leave them reliant upon someone else to help. This was the opening exploited by political operatives last fall.

Insufficient drop-off options for voters: If a North Carolina voter has not mailed the absentee ballot back soon enough, state law requires hand delivery to a county election office, which may be many miles away (NC Gen Stat §163-231). And by law, that person must be a close relative.  But for those who have trouble meeting the delivery requirements, or don’t know the rules, it opens a door that others can walk through.

In contrast, in Colorado we supplement returning ballots via the U.S. mail with ample secure drop boxes, available, 24/7 until the official close of voting. In addition, we operate staffed “vote centers” where voters can receive assistance or replace lost ballots. That makes voting by mail convenient throughout the cycle, and keeps the door closed to those who would take advantage of a North Carolina-like model.

Lack of a ballot tracking system: In Western states, voting by mail has been widely used over time and systems are advanced. There are proven tools that provide voters with superb customer service, the ability to track their ballot (as you would a package), and to confirm that it was properly received (examples: Ballot TRACE or Ballot Scout).

Many states and local jurisdictions now utilize ballot tracking that notifies voters by text or email about the status of their ballot, from the time it is mailed to when it has been received by the election official, verified and sent to the counting room. This provides voters and election officials complete visibility of the mail ballot envelope at each step in the process, which is key to deterring and detecting interference. Read more

News

Breaking: State Board of Elections sets dates for new election in 9th congressional district

Pursuant to a newly enacted state law that requires a complete new election in the 9th congressional district now that the State Board of Elections has voided Rev. Mark Harris’ tainted victory last November, the board acted today to set the dates for the new election.

The dates:

March 11: Candidate filing period commences

May 14: Primary election

Sept. 10: General election or runoff, if necessary, for primary

Nov. 5 General election if runoff held on Sept. 10.

Commentary

Editorial blasts Meadows, Foxx for embarrassing efforts to defend Trump

Mark Meadows

Virginia Foxx

Be sure to check out this morning’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com — “GOP is outraged at Cohen’s lies but gives President Trump a pass.” The editorial is particularly scathing (as many other observers have been) in its assessment of North Carolina congressman Mark Meadows for his embarrassing and tone deaf efforts to defend Trump at this week’s hearings in Washington.

After noting Meadows’ and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx’s willful efforts to ignore the thousands of indefensible lies Trump has told since his election, the editorial had this to say about their efforts to attack the veracity of former Trump fixer-turned-accuser Michael Cohen:

Their tolerance of Trump’s constant falsehoods – averaging 13 a day since he’s been in office – left them little choice. They made no effort to defend Trump’s credibility or veracity. They know they were defenseless.

But it backfired. Meadow’s theatrics in particular emerged as news just as big – and another embarrassment to North Carolina politics – than Cohen’s testimony.

Meadows, one of Trump’s most reflexive defenders finds himself along with Cohen, a not-so-flattering focal point.

At one point silently standing behind Meadows was Lynne Patton, a black woman who’s worked for the Trump family and now in the White House. Meadows demanded that her statement vouching that Trump was not a racist, be made part of the committee record.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Michigan, who is black, called the display racist and insensitive – using Patton as a “prop.” She clarified her comments to say she was not calling Meadows personally a racist.

Not only did this incident become an emotionally-charged moment in the hearings – it turned the focus on Meadows. A 2012 video of Meadows saying “2012 is the time we are going to send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever it is” was unearthed….

Why do Trump loyalists allow themselves to: be sacrificed at his excesses; tolerate his unrelenting deceit and lies; look the other way as he cozies-up to foreign dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un while ignoring U.S. intelligence agencies?

…Meadows, Foxx, others in North Carolina’s congressional delegation and the others in Congress should demand that our president ALWAYS tells the nation the truth and ALWAYS works in the best interest of all Americans not just his self-interest.

Tolerating – even benefiting — Trump’s lies and deceits isn’t absolution, it is abdication. History won’t remember Meadows, Foxx and the others for the fleeting decisions of courts. It is their partnership in dishonesty that will be recorded for posterity.

News

New report explains why it will be critical for the Census to count Latinx kids in NC

The good people at NC Child released a new “must read” report today on the 202 Census and Latinx children. Here’s the release that accompanied it:

Young Latino children will make the difference in North Carolina’s 2020 Census
An undercount would affect the state’s infrastructure and congressional representation for a decade

The full report is available now in English and Spanish at bit.ly/NCundercount.

RALEIGH, NC – Nearly 300 federal programs that provide support to families rely on data derived from the U.S. Census, which is conducted every 10 years. In North Carolina alone, more than $16 billion annually in federal funding is dependent on an accurate count.  These federal funds are used to support road construction, first responder services, school lunches, foster care, and other vital programs that North Carolina families depend on.

A new report from NC Child and NALEO Educational Fund, “The Statewide Implications of Undercounting Latino Children,” explores one of the major factors that could thwart a complete and accurate count of North Carolina residents and the distribution of critical funding for the state.

Approximately 109,000 of North Carolina’s children under age five (17.8 percent) are Latino, comprising nearly one out of every five children in the state. Young Latino children are particularly likely to be undercounted, because they are overrepresented in populations considered hard-to-count by the U.S. Census Bureau, which include:

  • Children under age five;
  • Racial and ethnic minorities;
  • People who do not speak English as a first language;
  • Low-income families; and
  • Migrant families.

“It is so important that North Carolina’s Census Commission make a concerted effort to reach Latino families ahead of the 2020 Census,” said Whitney Tucker, research director at NC Child. “If the state’s demographic data are inaccurate, we will feel the consequences for the next decade.”

“The persistent undercount of the nation’s second largest population group is a civil rights issue,” stated Juliana Cabrales, mid-Atlantic director of civic engagement at NALEO Educational Fund.  “Unless we bring Latino youth out of the shadows and into the light in Census 2020, the Latino community in North Carolina will continue to have disproportionate access to fair political representation and public services.  We must make the investments necessary today to ensure a full and accurate count of Latino children tomorrow.”

The report includes recommendations for community members and elected officials, including: Read more