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060810_1509_Environment1.jpgThere was a collective eye-roll among environmental activists earlier this month when the state Supreme Court announced it was taking over a review of the lawsuit between environmental groups and the state Environmental Management Commission over the handling of Duke Energy coal ash sites — as if the result was preordained.

Perhaps that’s because the conservative majority on the court is perceived as pro-business.

Or perhaps that’s because the high court has, in fact, been less than friendly to those interests.

In a new report examining judicial elections and environmental law — to be published in the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law — Professor John Echeverria dubs the North Carolina Supreme Court a “virtual sinkhole for environmental law.”

Echeverria found that in every case over the last 15 years in which our high court reviewed a major environmental law issue, a majority sided with the anti-environmental protection party in the dispute:

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Read the full report here.

News

vote-stickerAs we reported early this morning, the Court of Appeals refused to review Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephen’s order requiring the opening of a voting site on the Appalachian State University campus.

With that refusal, the State Board of Election scheduled a 4 p.m. meeting to vote on a new Watauga County plan that would include a site at ASU. The Board also, though, had filed a request with the Supreme Court for a stay of the Stephens order and a review by the high court.

By 4 p.m., the Board had not heard from the Supreme Court, so went ahead with the meeting and unanimously approved a new plan that included a site at ASU, per the Board’s public information officer Josh Lawson.

Just after adopting that new plan, the Supreme Court granted the stay and agreed to hear the case.

According to Lawson, despite the Court’s ruling, the Board would have to schedule yet another meeting to adopt another plan without the ASU site in response to the high court’s decision.

Lawson said that as of now he knows of no new plans to hold another Board meeting to do that — a decision that would come from Board Chair Josh Howard.

Meaning this: Unless something changes overnight, early voting will take place at a site in the Student Union of the Appalachian State campus (likely the “Price Lake” room).

Follow this post for further developments overnight.

News

voter button_SM.jpgThe state Board of Elections has called an emergency meeting for 4 p.m. today to adopt an early voting site at Appalachian State University, after the Court of Appeals late yesterday denied the state’s request for a review of Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens’ ruling requiring a polling place there.

Here’s an excerpt of the opinion by Judge Stephens:

The majority plan of the Watauga County Board of Elections on its face appears to have as a major purpose the elimination of an early voting site on the ASU campus. Based on this record, the court can conclude no other intent from that board’s decision other than to discourage student voting. A decision based on that intent is a significant infringement of students’ rights to vote and rises to the level of a constitutional violation of the right to vote.

The early voting plan submitted by the majority members of the Watauga County Board of Elections was arbitrary and capricious. All the credible evidence indicates that the sole purpose of that plan was to eliminate an early voting site on campus so as to discourage student voting and, as such, it is unconstitutional.

Here’s the decision by the Court of Appeals:

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And here is the meeting notice from the state Board.

No word yet of a further appeal to the Supreme Court.

News

vote2In case you missed it, Dahlia Lithwick had this wonderful post last week in which she noted the irony underlying a recent Arkansas Supreme Court decision rejecting that state’s voter ID law.

The court there based its ruling upon an 1865 decision protecting a confederate soldier’s right to vote under the state’s constitution — which required only that voters be U.S. citizens of a certain age, registered to vote, and living in the county where voting. As Lithwick noted, “modified versions of four of these qualifications (being a U.S. citizen, a resident of Arkansas, at least 18 years old, and lawfully registered to vote) are still the law in Arkansas.”

She added:

Just to be perfectly clear as to what just happened here, the Arkansas Supreme Court relied on a post–Civil War case restoring the franchise to former Confederate soldiers, including some who had slaughtered former slaves, to strike down a new voter ID law that would have suppressed the vote of minorities.

Lithwick credited University of Richmond Law School Professor John Pagan with pointing out the court’s precedent, and passed along this comment from Pagan in an email message to her:

My great-great grandfather, who served in an Arkansas regiment of the Confederate Army from 1861-65, was disenfranchised under the 1864 statute held unconstitutional in Rison. That the restoration of his voting rights by judicial decision in 1865 should provide the constitutional basis for preventing the disenfranchisement of enslaved people’s descendants in 2014 has to be one of the most remarkable turnabouts in the legal history of the South.

 

News

vote2Three posts this morning about the ongoing war on voters are worth your while, starting with yesterday’s opinion from Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens, ordering the state Board of Elections to reconfigure the voting plan out in Watauga County to locate a polling place at Appalachian State.  It’s a short opinion that packs a powerful punch and, as Justin Levitt notes here at the Election Law Blog, reminds us that “even as the war over North Carolina’s new statewide law rages on, [we shouldn’t] ignore the battles over implementation”:

The majority plan of the Watauga County Board of Elections on its face appears to have as a major purpose the elimination of an early voting site on the ASU  campus. Based on this record, the court can conclude no other intent from that board’s decision other than to discourage student voting. A decision based on that intent is a significant infringement of students’ rights to vote and rises to the level of a constitutional violation of the right to vote.

The early voting plan submitted by the majority members of the Watauga County Board of Elections was arbitrary and capricious. All the credible evidence indicates that the sole purpose of that plan was to eliminate an early voting site on campus so as to discourage student voting and, as such, it is unconstitutional.

Alec MacGillis has this post at the New Republic, listing these reasons why Republicans should surrender the fight over suppressing the vote:

1. The voting wars are a costly, bureaucratic nightmare.

2. The absence of voter fraud is becoming impossible to deny.

3. The GOP’s voter suppression efforts are motivating Democrats.

4. Rand Paul says so.

And Philip Bump addresses the myth of in-person voter fraud in this Washington Post blog, reiterating how such fraud, to the extent it exists at all, is found with absentee ballots — the one area free from voter ID restrictions.

Says Bump:

Almost no one shows up at the polls pretending to be someone else in an effort to throw an election. Almost no one acts as a poll worker on Election Day to try to cast illegal votes for a candidate. And almost no general election race in recent history has been close enough to have been thrown by the largest example of in-person voter fraud on record [24 voters in Brooklyn].