Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Four-member county boards of elections change leadership today, but why?

Four-member county boards of elections are set to change party leadership today.

Lawmakers reorganized county boards of elections at the same time they restructured the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. At the time the county boards were created, the chairperson was written in the law to be a Democrat and the vice-chair a Republican but those roles flip-flop in July.

The State Board sent out guidance on the reorganization in March and an updated Frequently Asked Questions list this month.

“Q: What is the Board Reorganization date? Do we have to reorganize?,” the document states. “A: G.S. § 163A-767 establishes a fixed date for meeting and organization ‘in the year of…appointment.’ The boards need to meet at noon on July 17, 2018 to appoint a chair and co-chair of different political parties. At this reorganization, the new Chair should be a Republican and the new Vice-Chair a Democrat.”

The change comes as many counties are still considering their one-stop early voting plans — a key decision-making process the four-member boards participate in to determine where North Carolinians can vote in the fall.

The boards in general oversee county board of elections staff and make other decisions as required by law, according to State Board spokesman Pat Gannon.

In addition to deciding on early voting plans, the four-member boards:

  • hear election protests, candidate challenges and voter registration challenges
  • approve or disapprove absentee and provisional ballots
  • canvass elections
  • oversee county board staffs, including the director
  • appoint a chair, vice chair and secretary
  • issue certificates of nomination and election in contests under county board jurisdiction
  • recommend county elections directors
  • purchase and maintain voting equipment

As of Tuesday early afternoon, 36 already counties passed early voting plans (Alamance, Alleghany, Anson, Bertie, Bladen, Burke, Caldwell, Carteret, Catawba, Chatham, Chowan, Cleveland, Cumberland, Davie, Franklin, Greene, Guilford, Haywood, Hoke, Jones, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Moore, Pamlico, Person, Richmond, Stanly, Warren, Wayne and Yadkin) — five of those counties were not unanimous decisions (Orange, Northampton, Pender, Pitt and Wake), which means the State Board will weigh in. The deadline for all counties to submit their plans to the State Board is Friday.

Gannon said the four-member boards are different from the county election offices. The offices are responsible for the day-to-day activities involved in administering elections, including voter registration and list maintenance, appointing election judges and poll workers, conducting elections, hearing election protests and candidate challenges, maintaining elections equipment and approving one-stop plans.

For more information about elections in North Carolina, visit the State Board’s website.

Legislature, News, Trump Administration

“Don’t come back,” N.C. lawmaker tells Trump after Putin summit

Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake

“Don’t come back,” a North Carolina legislator told President Donald Trump after his widely-criticized summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday.

Rep. Grier Martin, a Raleigh Democrat and Afghanistan veteran in the U.S. Army Reserve, hammered the president in a much-shared Tweet Tuesday.


The tweet prompted a reaction from those on both the right and the left.

WRAL has more:

As of noon Tuesday, the viral post had more than 1,800 retweets and 4,500 likes.

“I guess it struck a nerve and resonated with folks,” Martin said.

He explained that he is not currently on active duty and is therefore not precluded by the Uniform Code from making disparaging comments about the Commander in Chief.

“This tweet was not at all in my capacity as a member of the U.S. Army,” he said.

Martin said Trump’s comments were particularly disturbing to “folks of my generation.”

“I came of age at the very end of the Cold War,” he explained. “As a cadet, I was learning Soviet tactics and Soviet weapons.”

He also noted that the vast majority of replies to his tweet expressed agreement, and many also urged Martin to take legislative action. As a state lawmaker, not a member of Congress, there’s little action he can take.

“That says to me that there’s a frustration in the public with both Democrats and Republicans who have condemned the president’s conduct in Finland,” he said, “but have not in the public’s view taken action they believe would be appropriate.”

Reached for comment on the tweet, North Carolina Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse was uncharacteristically low-key.

“It’s over the top, as much of the commentary from the left about the president often is,” Woodhouse responded. “One can disagree with the president without calling for his exile.”

On Twitter, the disagreements, though few, were more vehement.

Environment

Residents living near Chemours Fayetteville Works plant invited to participate in state GenX health study

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Bladen and Cumberland county health departments plan to test the blood and urine of up to 30 residents living near Chemours’ Fayetteville Works facility for the presence of GenX and 16 other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS.

Health officials will begin calling selected residents near the Fayetteville Works facility this week to invite them to participate, and residents with private wells that had the highest detections of GenX during the sampling will be contacted first.

At least 225 private drinking water wells in neighborhoods near the plant have tested above the state’s provisional health goal of 140 parts per trillion for GenX. Other fluorinated compounds previously have been discharged and emitted from the Chemours plant, and are  present in the environment.

The purpose of the testing is to determine if PFAS can be detected in blood or urine from area residents, and if so, how their levels compare to levels detected from other parts of the country. Human health effects associated with PFAS exposure are not well understood, although there is some indication they may be linked to thyroid disease, high cholesterol and some cancers.

Participation is limited to no more than 30 people based on CDC testing capacity. Each household will be limited to one adult participant and one child participant (12-17 years old). Individual results will be shared with participants, and summary results will be shared with the public without participants’ private information.

“This is an important next step in understanding GenX and other PFAS exposure in humans,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore, in a press statement. “However, this testing cannot tell us whether GenX or other PFAS are associated with any specific health effects.”

Samples will be sent to the CDC in Atlanta for testing. Because some PFAS are expected to be easier to detect in blood, NC DHHS said, and others are expected to be easier to detect in urine, samples will be tested differently:
Urine samples will be tested for GenX and seven other PFAS.
Blood samples will be tested for nine PFAS, and may be tested for GenX if it is detected in urine samples.

Another similar study is being conducted by NC State University’s Center for Human Health and the Environment; that group of scientists is studying the blood and urine of nearly 200 people in New Hanover County, where GenX was initially detected in the drinking water.

 

 

Commentary

DPI insider posts another takedown of the agency and its support of school privatization

A North Carolina Department of Public Instruction insider who has been speaking out on the Caffeinated Rage blog of Forsyth County schoolteacher Stuart Egan has another damning assessment of Superintendent Mark Johnson and the ongoing effort of conservatives to privatize North Carolina’s public schools. The comment was posted early this morning on a post by Egan entitled “‘Nearly 1 in 5 NC students are opting out of traditional public schools’ – And It’s a Deliberate Plan.”

In his excellent post, Egan lifts up a recent news story and an editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer on the subject and goes on to explain in straightforward terms how the privatization scheme is being implemented and who the actors are that are behind it.

Here is the comment that the insider — who identifies themselves as “ncdpivet” — posted in response:

“This is so spot on. Everyone should translate ‘choice’ into ‘undermining of public schools’, because that is exactly what it is. The most sickening part is how low-income families and those of children with disabilities have been targeted, cajoled, hoodwinked and bamboozled into believing that choice automatically equates to quality. (Anyone who considers themselves conservative should be outraged at this profound misuse of their tax dollars.)

Unfortunately, I get to witness this erosion and implosion every day at DPI. I just met another of my colleagues whose job was eliminated by the General Assembly’s draconian cuts and our puppet superintendent’s ‘just following orders’ approach. It was so sad to see this person, who was providing passionate, competent and knowledgeable support to eastern NC schools trying mightily to serve their markedly low-income populations, tossed aside in this ponzi scheme to dangle ‘school choice’ in front of needy families. It’s like eliminating the road crew that is fixing potholes and cracks on I-95 and using the public’s money to build a flimsy expensive two-lane highway right next to it that has no markings, guardrails, speed limits or enforcement (with full kickbacks going to the private paving company). ‘Hey mom and dad — let your kids ride on this shiny new road because you’ll have a choice, and we all know choice is better!’

EdNC put out an excellent article a few days ago: https://www.ednc.org/2018/07/11/steep-cuts-to-north-carolinas-education-agency-hurt-low-performing-schools-the-most/. It perfectly spells out the absurdity in our agency and our feckless leadership. We’re told ‘shh, be quiet; this is a sensitive time’ for all our colleagues who were laid off, when in reality there should be a loud leader fighting for his folks every step of the way, even if the jobs could not be saved. You see, that’s how the damage really occurs here in our agency — not by vocal or visible action of those who ultimately have to answer to their supervisor every day, month and year, but by the SILENCE and joint inaction of the only ones in the agency who AREN’T supervised. The superintendent has no official boss and writes no annual work plan like the rest of us; instead, he gets a four-year ride and won’t have a whiff of accountability for another two and half years, long after the damage has been done. Meanwhile, scores of good people continue to walk out the door, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and the Public Schools of North Carolina will continue to suffer for it.”

immigration

Strengthening DACA would boost state and local finances

Image: Adobe Stock

Protecting and expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would boost state and local public finances, according to a new report. While the human toll of aggressive deportation policies and inflammatory rhetoric play out in communities across the country, a less visible harm is being imposed on state and local finances. DACA helps young immigrants to more fully realize their human and economic potential, which in turn means more tax revenue for state and local governments. On the other hand, ending the program would erode state and local finances and crush Dreamers’ aspirations.

In North Carolina, DACA recipients contribute an estimated $58.5 million in state and local taxes, a figure which could increase by almost $21 million if all of the young people eligible for DACA enrolled in the program, and which means a $28 million decrease if DACA ends. Nationwide, enrolling everyone who meets the criteria for DACA could boost state and local tax revenues by $815 million.

DACA is a program designed to increase the educational attainment and economic productivity of young immigrants. A temporary work authorization allows DACA recipients greater access to higher education, employment opportunities, and higher wages. These newfound opportunities translate into higher tax revenue and economic growth. DACA shows what happens when Dreamers have the tools to succeed. Read more