Commentary

Dissecting McCrory’s “laughable” explanation for his appeal to the Supreme Court

Voting rightsThis morning’s lead editorial in the Greensboro News & Record includes an on-the-money takedown of Gov. Pat McCrory’s downright preposterous excuse for pushing an “emergency” appeal of the Fourth Circuit’s July ruling striking down the state’s “monster” voter suppression law. As the N&R demonstrates, the Guv’s explanation would literally be laugh-out-loud funny if it wasn’t so potentially destructive:

“This election season hasn’t given us many laughs, so we’re grateful to Gov. Pat McCrory for this one: ‘Allowing the Fourth Circuit’s ruling to stand creates confusion among voters and poll workers …’

McCrory was explaining why he asked the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts, to let North Carolina enforce its voter ID law and other restrictions for the November election.

It will confuse voters if they don’t have to present an approved photo ID. Although they can if they want to.

They’ll get all mixed up if they are allowed to cast a provisional ballot if they show up at the wrong precinct by mistake.

It will befuddle them if they’re allowed to register and vote on the same day during early voting.

Oh, the bewilderment of it all. Voters will have all the same rights they had in 2012 unless the Supreme Court steps in and denies them, as North Carolina’s 2013 election ‘reform’ law intended.”

And here’s the conclusion:

“Republicans were simply trying to hold on to their power by whatever means they could. Now they have been stopped.

Chief Justice Roberts was presented with no evidence that would justify placing a hold on the circuit court’s ruling. Any confusion, now that local election boards are planning to follow procedures that were in place in 2012, would be caused by further intervention. The governor’s request is laughable.”

Commentary

What is Dallas Woodhouse really afraid of?

Dallas WoodhouseThe big story in North Carolina today is the blatantly partisan effort of state Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse (pictured at left in his Americans for Prosperity days) to suppress voter turnout in the November election. As Colin Campbell of Raleigh’s News & Observer reported yesterday afternoon, Woodhouse has sent directives to all of the GOP members of local boards of elections urging them to “make party line changes in early voting.” Here’s Campbell:

“The N.C. Republican Party encouraged GOP appointees to county elections boards to ‘make party line changes to early voting’ by limiting the number of hours and keeping polling sites closed on Sundays.

NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse emailed the request to Republican county board members and other party members on Sunday. The News & Observer obtained copies of the emails through a public records request.

County elections boards are developing new early voting schedules in response to a federal court ruling that threw out the state’s voter ID law. In addition to revoking North Carolina’s photo ID requirement, the ruling requires counties to offer 17 days of early voting….

Woodhouse suggests limiting early voting hours because the sites allow voters to use same-day registration – a practice the voter ID law sought to eliminate.

‘We believe same-day registration is ripe with voter fraud, or the opportunity to commit it,’ he wrote. ‘Same-day registration is only available during early voting. We are under no obligation to offer more opportunities for voter fraud.’

As everyone with even a modicum of common sense already knows, however, Woodhouse’s “fraud” excuse is just that — a ridiculous excuse.  As the transparent attempt to end Sunday voting plainly demonstrates (Woodhouse proffered the lame excuses that some people have religious objections and that poll workers should get a rest), what this is all really about is veteran political operative doing everything he can think of to suppress the votes of people he fears will vote for his opponents — particularly African-Americans. It is the exact same brand of voter suppression that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found conservative state legislators to have engaged in when it struck down the 2013 “Monster” voting law a few weeks ago, albeit, admittedly, absent the “surgical precision.”

Let’s hope that Democracy NC Executive Director Bob Hall was right when he told Campbell:

“Fortunately, many Republican board members have more respect for their oath … to serve all voters than they are beholden to Dallas Woodhouse.”

If not, it seems quite possible that Woodhouse’s outrageous words will come back to bite him in the not-too-distant future — in state and/or federal court.

Commentary

Great news from Greensboro as city adopts paid parental leave policy for city workers

There was great news in Greensboro last night as North Carolina’s third largest city moved into the 21st Century (the 20th in other advanced parts of the world) in an important area of public policy: leave for new parents. The good people at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, report:

Greensboro City Council Passes Paid Parental Leave Policy To Help Greensboro’s Working Families
Working people, advocates push City Council to offer city workers up to six weeks’ paid parental leave

On the heels of securing a landmark minimum wage hike for city workers that went into effect last fall, a coalition of working people and community advocates—including Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO—came together at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to successfully advance a measure establishing a new paid parental leave policy for city workers.

The Paid Parental Leave ordinance, passed by a vote of 9 to 0, offers up to six weeks of paid parental leave to men, women and same-sex couples employed by the City of Greensboro for at least one year who welcome a new member into their families through birth, fostering or adoption. Currently, working families employed by the city may access benefits from the federal Family Medical Leave Act, which only provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave for eligible recipients.

“This ordinance is the right thing to do to help narrow the gender pay gap for Greensboro’s dedicated employees and improve the vitality and economy of our city overall,” said Councilman Jamal Fox, who introduced the ordinance. “Our city workers are professionals committed to Greensboro’s success—they shouldn’t have to choose between bonding with their child and paying their bills.”

Leading up to the vote, Working America members met with City Council members and wrote letters to the editor in support of adopting the ordinance. Additionally, working families and allies—including Working America members—packed the room to offer testimony in favor of the policy during Tuesday’s meeting.

“Greensboro continues to lead the way in creating smart, family-friendly policies that address troubling disparities and acknowledge today’s diverse family structures,” said Working America North Carolina State Director Carolyn Smith. “By raising wages and granting access to paid time off to city workers to care for new additions to their families, Greensboro continues to serve as a model to municipalities throughout the south for improving standards for working families.”

While paid parental leave policies are growing in popularity, most working Americans still lack access to paid family leave. According to a recent Associated Press analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 12 percent of working people in the United States have access to paid leave through their jobs. A recent report from the North Carolina Justice Center asserts that in North Carolina alone, a staggering 1.2 million working people in the private sector do not have access to any earned paid leave.

Obviously, last night’s action is just a small step given that the vast majority of North Carolina workers still enjoy no such benefit. That said, it’s an important one and should add momentum to the effort to make such policies universal in modern America.

Commentary

Expert: Why McCrory’s (very expensive) lawyer faces an uphill battle at the Supreme Court

Ian Millhiser

Ian Millhiser

U.S. Supreme Court chronicler Ian Millhiser has another fascinating post at Think Progress on the “emergency” appeal that Gov. Pat McCrory filed 17 days after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down North Carolina’s discriminatory “monster” voter suppression law. As Millhiser notes in “North Carolina Hires One Of America’s Most Expensive Attorneys To Defend Voter Suppression: Defending the indefensible is hard,” the state has an uphill fight — even with a lawyer who charges his clients as much as $1,350 per hour:

“The king’s ransom [lawyer Paul] Clement is likely to collect from North Carolina’s taxpayers for his work on North Carolina v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP bought a legal document that probably offers the best defense that could be offered in favor of a law which, as the appeals court explains, was intentionally designed to make it harder for black people to vote. Nevertheless, Clement’s brief, styled as an “EMERGENCY APPLICATION TO RECALL AND STAY MANDATE OF THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT PENDING DISPOSITION OF A PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI,” reads like a document weirdly out of time. It is the sort of brief a Supreme Court advocate would file if Justice Antonin Scalia were still alive to provide the fifth vote to reinstate a voter suppression law. And it offers many arguments that are likely to antagonize the justices Clement needs to win over if he is to prevail.”

Millhiser goes on to explain in some detail why the arguments put forth in the brief come up short and are very unlikely to sway the five justices that would be necessary to reinstate the voter suppression law. It’s a quick read that’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time. Here’s the conclusion:

“In case there’s any doubt, none of these critiques of Clement’s brief should be taken as a slight against his skill as an attorney. To the contrary, given the fact that North Carolina is required to comply with both the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, as well as the Fourth Circuit’s determination that the state engaged in intentional race discrimination, the fact that Clement is able to offer any defense at all of this law is a testament to why his clients are willing to pay top dollar for his exceptionally advocacy.

But, at the end of the day, the justices are supposed to base their decisions on the law. Not on who is able to hire the fanciest lawyer.”

Commentary

It’s past time to halt program that subsidizes discrimination against LGBT North Carolinians

School vouchersA few weeks back, Chris Fitzsimon was the first commentator in the state to call attention to the fact that North Carolina’s badly misnamed “Opportunity Scholarship” (i.e. school vouchers) program is funneling public money to private religious schools that discriminate against LGBT children and/or kids whose parents are LGBT. Happily, since that time, mainstream news media outlets have begun to report on this ridiculous situation as well and, in recent days, to issue their own scathing editorials.

Yesterday, the Charlotte Observer put it this way in an editorial entitled “Private schools where LGBT students need not apply”:

“Here’s a quick lesson in Government Fairness 101:

Ready?

Don’t tax people for a government service, then tell them they can’t have the service. If you’re trying to imagine the most infuriating thing a government official could ever say to you, try this one on for size:

‘Your family’s money is welcome here, but your kids aren’t.’

Isn’t that what the North Carolina legislature and private religious schools are saying to gay, lesbian and transgender children’s families?”

And this morning, Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting Company weighed in with an editorial entitled “More Jones Street madness: ‘Opportunity (for the right kids) Scholarships'”:

“The Constitution and its Bill of Rights give us freedoms to practice our faith as we see fit. But, it does not give government license to use taxpayer dollars to support and promote certain religious practices.

State Rep. Paul ‘Skip’ Stam, a Republican from Wake County, sees the scholarship issue as one between students, the students’ parents and the schools. The rest of the state’s taxpayers, who actually provide the money for the program, are irrelevant. There are plenty of private schools that don’t discriminate, he contends….

Rep. Stam may think this is about a relationship between students, parents and schools. He is misguided. He leaves out the most significant partner – the taxpayers.

It is just plain wrong. Taxpayer dollars should not support discrimination. Schools receiving state voucher funds should show they do not discriminate in their admissions policies.

If schools choose to discriminate, that’s their business. Taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill.”

Especially now that Stam is retiring from the General Assembly, let’s hope his soon-to-be-former colleagues wake up to the absurdity of this hateful discrimination and take action ASAP to end it. And while they’re at it, perhaps they can also stop these same schools from using public money to teach children that humans and dinosaurs once walked the earth together and that the KKK wasn’t all that bad.