Commentary, Defending Democracy

Another editorial blasts Trump Census question, backs NC’s lawsuit against it

Be sure to check out the lead editorial in this morning’s Fayetteville Observer, (“Question will distort NC census count”). After explaining that no one has a solid count on the number of undocumented immigrants in North Carolina and the Trump administration’s laughable explanation that it hopes to get a better count by asking about people’s citizenship status on the Census, the editorial puts it this way:

“Nice try, but the idea is dripping with unintended consequences. It’s more likely to send immigrants running from census enumerators and creating an inaccurate count, especially in states like this one, with a large immigrant population.

The problem is, people who are here legally might run too. Statistics compiled by the American Immigration Council show that there are about 200,000 American citizens in North Carolina who have at least one undocumented immigrant in their household. Those are households that may work hard to avoid being counted. There is plenty of evidence out there about what happens in immigrant communities where there is fear that cooperating with government officials can result in raids and deportation. People — even those in the U.S. legally — tend to disappear into the shadows.

That’s why adding the citizenship question to the next census form is a bad idea. It’s likely to result in inaccurate counts, and a significant undercount in states like this one. An undercount has real consequences. This state gets billions of dollars in federal aid every year, and in most cases that aid is based on census numbers. A decline in head count becomes a decline in revenue, which will either deprive this state of important services or force state taxpayers to take up the slack.

We’re also on the verge of qualifying for an additional seat in Congress. If our population growth continues at its present pace, and declines continue in other states, we’re likely to get a 14th congressional district….

All of those reasons are why we support N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein’s joining 16 other states, the District of Columbia and multiple major American cities in a suit against the federal government that argues that the addition of a citizenship question is unconstitutional. The bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors has also joined the suit, saying that the citizenship question would ‘fatally undermine the accuracy of the population count.’ The Constitution requires an every-10-year census and the addition of a citizenship question would interfere with an accurate count….

There will be plenty of arguments that the suit — brought by largely Democratic state administrations — is itself a political statement. And for some parties to the suit, it may well be.

But the bottom line for us is the likelihood that the citizenship question will distort the 2020 census results in ways likely to hurt North Carolina.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Defending Democracy, NC Faces of Change, News

N.C. Faces of Change: Sayer Kirk

Sayer Kirk, 18, founded the Queer Fish Center to support LGBTQ youth in conservative Alamance County.

When Sayer Kirk founded the Queer Fish Center in January, she knew there was a need for a supportive environment for LGBTQ youth. But she wasn’t sure how much support there would be in conservative Alamance County.

“I’m from Burlington – and Burlington itself is fine in terms of queer acceptance,” said Kirk, 18, in an interview last week. “But if you branch out into Snow Camp or Graham it won’t necessarily be the same.”

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election and the aftermath of the HB2 fight, Kirk said, she could feel a shift toward people no longer hiding their homophobic and transphobic views.

“It just felt like people were actively saying, ‘We don’t want you here. There isn’t a place for you,’” Kirk said. “I wanted there to be a place and for people to know there was a place.”

Kirk envisioned a place – maybe a small house – where young LGBTQ people could come together to support each other, plan activism, have access to a library of queer literature and wardrobe of donated clothing for transgender people who are transitioning. But the first step, she realized, was creating an actual 501(c)(3) charity – and that would take some money. She set up a GoFundMe page with a modest goal of $750.

To date, the project page has raised more than $1,600.

“That felt good,” Kirk said. “We realized there was support out there.”

With funds raised to apply for status as a tax-exempt charity, any funding over the $750 ask is going  toward books featuring queer characters, clothes for transgender clothes swaps, a group banner for pride events and eventually the permanent physical location Kirk originally imagined.

There isn’t a strong history of activism in her family, Kirk said. But she was inspired to begin helping others because she felt lucky to have a supportive family when she came out as a lesbian. She knew that wasn’t everyone’s story.

“I had a very easy coming-out, in comparison to some people,” said Kirk. “But I had friends who did not. One of my best friends didn’t have a good experience and didn’t have anywhere to go if he were to have gotten kicked out of his house, which was a possibility at one point.”

Her mother, Amanda Kirk, offered to take in that friend if he needed – a generosity and active engagement that inspired her.

Having gotten a taste of activism with the Queer Fish center, Kirk has stayed engaged in the political fights now inspiring young people – particularly in the wake of the mass shooting in  Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Kirk helped organize a walk-out at Walter M. Williams High School, where she is a junior, to honor the lives of the 17 people killed at Parkland and raise awareness about gun violence.

She faced some opposition from school administration, she said – who confiscated signs that had previously been approved for use in the protest. But faculty like Robin Farber, a Latin teacher Kirk said has been like a second mother to her, have encouraged student passion for change.

Kirk said the greatest current threat she sees to Democracy is the dismissal of youth voices by those in power.

“We’re being directly affected by what’s going on in America right now, and we haven’t really had a voice,” Kirk said. “But I’m 18 and I’ll be voting in the next election. A lot of us will. If they’re politicians aren’t listening to what we have to say, we’re going to do what we can to get rid of them.”

The greatest hope for Democracy, Kirk said, is that an entire generation seems to be waking up from its apathy and conviction that they can’t change the world. From LGBTQ rights to gun violence, she said, young people are leading the way and their views will determine the nation’s direction.

“I have hope that people are getting involved, that we’re getting out of this mindset that mine is just one vote and it doesn’t matter. We’re the ones being killed in schools. We’re the ones who these policies are affecting so we’re speaking up and realizing we have to be the ones whose votes push these things over the edge.”

Commentary, Defending Democracy

Editorials agree: Census question on citizenship is a big mistake

There were two fine op-ed in the Raleigh area over the weekend on the controversial Trump administration plan to mar the 2020 Census with an inappropriate question on citizenship.

Here’s columnist Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“A citizenship question will drive down the responses not only from undocumented immigrants afraid of deportation, but also the responses from native-born Americans and naturalized citizens who are living in immigrant communities. They’ll be wary of disclosing the presence of a non-citizen in their household at a time when federal officers are more aggressively arresting people who are in the U.S. illegally.

The risk from undercounting immigrants is high in North Carolina, said Rebecca Tippett, a demographer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She noted that 414,000 children in the state have at least one parent who is an immigrant. Undercounting many of those children could lead to the underfunding of schools. Meanwhile, missing anyone — child or adult — results in a loss of $988 per person in federal funding, she said.

Conservative Republicans welcome this filtering. An undercount of undocumented immigrants, their citizen children and other citizen relatives will help Republicans when legislative redistricting occurs after the 2020 Census.”

And here’s Rebecca Tippett, Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Population Center on WRAL.com:

“The concern about the newly added question is not related to its content. We have a long history of asking Americans about their citizenship status on the census and other surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.  The concern is the addition of this question without the standard rigor and vetting process the bureau typically takes for adding new census questions.  Without this research, we do not understand how it will impact response rates, accuracy, and overall costs.

The census is one of the most important activities of our government. It is the foundation of our representative democracy.  Every decade, the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are divided among the states based on their total population in the most recent census.  The census also determines the allocation of more than half a trillion dollars of federal funds, including more than $16 billion annually to North Carolina….

Non-response in 2020 may be even higher, for many reasons. The U.S. population is larger and harder to count than ever before.  Overall response rates to statistical surveys have been declining steadily for the past few decades and Americans are increasingly distrustful of government data collection efforts.  If the newly added question increases non-response among immigrant communities as some worry, this could have far-reaching impacts on North Carolina.

Nearly 800,000 immigrants were living in North Carolina in 2016, representing 8 percent of the total population, with high concentrations in both urban and rural communities. Higher non-response and a greater undercount of the immigrant population could exacerbate the undercount of children in North Carolina in 2020.”

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

New Elections, Ethics board met for first time with minimal disagreement

The full State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement got right to business Tuesday, appointing all 100 four-member county boards of elections and approving a petition to officially recognize the North Carolina Green Party.

It’s the first time the board has met with all nine newly-appointed members, though it was conducted via teleconference. There was only one disagreement along party lines at this meeting, and it involved the appointment of the Cleveland County Board of Elections.

The Board approved the first and second choice recommendations from the state Republican and Democratic parties for all county boards of elections, except in Cleveland, Halifax and Robeson. It was an 8-1 vote with John Lewis, a Republican board member, voting against it because he thought all counties should be included.

Vice Chairman Joshua Malcolm put forth a motion in Cleveland County to appoint Republicans’ second and third choices, which meant their top, experienced pick, Joseph “Wayne” King, would no longer serve.

Malcolm described it as a “judgement call” and said there were some concerns about how elections had been previously carried out in Cleveland County.

Stacy Eggers, a Republican board member, said it was a break from tradition. Lewis agreed and said it was a blatant partisan move and that the board should own up to that to be transparent.

Damon Circosta, the unaffiliated ninth member who was appointed to the board last week, tried to stay neutral and propose an amendment to also appoint the Democrats’ second and third choices, but Malcolm rejected it. Circosta ultimately voted with the Democratic board members in a 5-4 approval to not appoint King.

The county board members who were appointed Tuesday will serve until at least June 25, 2019 (full list below this post).

In other business, the board voted unanimously to recognize the Green Party as an official political party in North Carolina.

Recognition of the Green Party means voters will have another choice of party affiliation when registering to vote, according to a news release from the agency. Voters may register with the Democratic, Green, Libertarian or Republican parties, or they can register as unaffiliated.

It also means that Green Party candidates, chosen by convention in 2018, will appear on ballots in this year’s Nov. 6 general election.

The Board is updating and will distribute new voter registration forms that include the Green Party option. Until then, voters can register with the Green Party by checking the “Other” box and writing “Green” on the line in “Political Party Affiliation” section of the voter registration application.

The board also appointed panels to hear candidate challenges in six multi-county General Assembly districts. They are as follows (chair in bold):

  • House District 22: Bobby Ludlum, R-Bladen, chair; G.H. Wilson, D-Sampson; and Horace Bass, D-Sampson
  • House District 67: Karmen Mock, R-Stanly; Ronald Wayne Burris Jr., D-Stanly, chair; David Black, R-Cabarrus
  • Senate District 1: Johnny Sessoms III, D-Hertford; Alice Malesky, R-Currituck; William M. Sawyer, D-Camden; Donna Elms, R-Dare, chair; Alice Mackey, D-Hyde
  • Senate District 11: John Shallcross, R-Johnston, chair; Gordon C. Woodruff, D-Johnston; Kelly Shore, D-Nash
  • Senate District 21: Jeff Long, R-Cumberland; Harvey Wright Raynor III, D-Cumberland, chair; Robert Vaughn, R-Hoke
  • Senate District 34: Alan G. Carpenter, D-Iredell, chair; Paul Mills, R-Iredell; Claude Wiseman, R-Yadkin

See below for a full list of county boards of elections appointees:

CBE Appointments (Final) 03-27-2018 (3) by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

Commentary, Defending Democracy, News

Civil rights, immigrant advocacy groups condemn new Census question on citizenship; California sues

A wide array of civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups are loudly condemning the Trump administration’s plan to include a new question in the 2020 Census about citizenship. This is from the good people at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

“In no uncertain terms, we condemn Secretary Ross’s decision to incorporate an 11th hour citizenship question into the 2020 Census,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “This is a clear attempt to politicize the process by discouraging minority communities and immigrant communities from participating in the count. This decision comes at a time when we have seen xenophobic and anti-immigrant policy positions from this administration. This is an arbitrary and untested decision that all but guarantees that the Census will not produce a full and accurate count of the population as the constitution requires.”

Clarke continued, “while Secretary Ross claims that the citizenship question will help with enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the reality is that the Justice Department has proven hostile to safeguarding minority voting rights. Enforcement of the Voting Rights Act has come to a grinding halt. Clearly, this is mere pretext to mask the discriminatory motives underlying this move.”

Advocates at the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) put it this way:

“The ramifications of adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census is extremely anti-immigrant and intended to deter millions of immigrants from participating for fear of being targeted by this administration. If there is any question of just how radical this effort is, consider that every census since the first enumeration in 1790 included people living in the United States, citizens and non-citizens alike.

This is a direct attempt to undermine our democracy. We are going to fight this with everything we have. We will do everything within our power to ensure that this decision is reversed and that our communities continue to be counted.”

And this morning the state of California challenged the action in federal court. This is from a story at CNN.com:

Progressives, states and civil rights advocates are preparing a flurry of legal challenges to the Trump administration’s decision to add a question about citizenship to the next census, saying the move will penalize immigrants and threaten civil rights.

The late Monday move from the Commerce Department, which it said came in response a request by the Justice Department, would restore a question about citizenship that has not appeared on the census since the 1950s. The administration said the data was necessary to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The state of California immediately challenged the plan in federal court.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla trashed the move as anti-immigrant.

“The citizenship question is the latest attempt by President Trump to stoke the fires of anti-immigrant hostility,” Padilla said in a statement.

“Now, in one fell swoop, the US Commerce Department has ignored its own protocols and years of preparation in a concerted effort to suppress a fair and accurate census count from our diverse communities. The administration’s claim that it is simply seeking to protect voting rights is not only laughable, but contemptible.”

For more information on this development, check out Julianne Hing’s article at The Nation.