News

Gov. McCrory concedes election in video message

After nearly a month of contesting the results of the Nov. 8 election, Gov. Pat McCrory conceded to Attorney General Roy Cooper in a video message Monday.

The concession begins at about the 38 second mark.

“I personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken,” McCrory said in the video. “And we now should do everything we can to support the 75th governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper.”

“The McCrory administration team will assist in every way to help the new administration make a smooth transition,” McCrory said.

The concession came as Durham County was completing the partial recount ordered last week by the State Board of Elections.

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Courts & the Law, News, Voting

Oral argument in NC racial gerrymandering case to be heard at US Supreme Court today

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral argument today in two cases alleging racial gerrymandering, including McCrory v. Harris.

SCOTUS Blog posted a very thorough argument preview on both cases last week.

When creating new legislative maps, some states say that they feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the Voting Rights Act requires states with large minority populations to consider race when drawing district lines. On the other hand, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution bars states from making race the predominant factor when they draw districts.

McCrory v. Harris challenges two congressional district maps that the state’s legislature drew. The case deals specifically with districts 1 and 12, which SCOTUS Blog notes has been at the heart of four earlier racial gerrymandering cases at the court.

A three-judge panel ruled in February that the North Carolina Congressional District map was drawn with racial bias. The argument preview describes:

Defending the districts, North Carolina Republicans maintain that the redistricting of NC-12 was not about race, but was instead part of an effort to maximize the number of congressional districts that would elect Republican candidates. Indeed, they emphasize, the consultant who drew the plan only consulted political data from the 2008 presidential election and did not consider racial demographics at all when drawing the district. And because of the close correlation between race and political party, they argue, drawing legislative districts to account for the voters’ preferred political parties can result in district lines that correlate with race. When that happens, they continue, the plaintiffs must “do more than show that race is a possible explanation for a district’s lines.” Rather, they must demonstrate that the legislature “actually subordinated traditional race-neutral districting principles” to race.

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News

GOP election official not wild about being smeared by GOP

One of the most surreal parts about covering Wednesday’s meeting of  the State Board of Elections was watching the board order, in a 3-2 party-line vote, a partial recount in Durham despite the board’s admission they had no evidence of impropriety and didn’t expect the recount to change the results.

Why do the recount, then? Because of a *feeling* that something could have gone wrong, GOP board members said – a sense that there was a dark cloud or a “taint” on the proceedings in the Durham election.

Turns out I wasn’t the only person taken aback by that.

Durham Board of Elections Chairman Bill Brian, a Republican, isn’t wild about having his own party impugning the integrity of the work he and his team did – or that of the other 52 counties, all with Republican-majority boards, that Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign is questioning.

“I was just stunned by the result, given the evidence and the argument that was put forward by both sides, but we are where we are,” Durham County Board of Elections Chairman Bill Brian said Thursday. “I’m not aware of any great pall that has been cast over the returns from Durham by anybody but the people who don’t like the outcome.”

The state board’s own experts had worked with Durham County elections officials to count the ballots late on Election Night and later independently verified the vote totals in the gubernatorial race were correct. No evidence of any mistakes was presented to the state board.

Brian, a Republican, and his two colleagues on the local board, voted unanimously two weeks ago to reject Stark’s protest of the election after hearing the same evidence presented to the state board.

He gritted his teeth through the state board hearing, saying he is frustrated that his staff’s efforts are continually questioned.

“It’s irritating to me, frankly, as somebody’s who’s been a long-time Durham booster to have to go through and reprove and reprove and reprove our results, especially under the circumstances when we’ve had numerous experts stand up and say the results are accurate,” he said. “If there was evidence there was a problem, I’d be the first one to say let’s count them, let’s redo the whole thing, whatever it takes to get straight.”

Durham is undertaking the partial recount ordered by the state board, but is asking for the deadline to be extended to Wednesday.

News

Carrboro joins worldwide movement to abolish death penalty in U.S.

Carrboro made a public declaration this week to abolish the death penalty by joining the worldwide movement, “Cities for Life/Cities Against the Death Penalty.”

Mayor Lydia Lavelle issued a proclamation Wednesday declaring the town part of the movement to raise awareness about it and abolish the death penalty in the U.S., according to an article in The Daily Tarheel.

“They asked me if our town would participate in recognizing the date and bringing awareness to it,” Lavelle told the newspaper. “I did a little research and realized that it was something I thought our board would not mind me putting a proclamation out about.”

Cities for Life has grown from 80 cities in 2002 to more than 2,000 today. Carrboro appears to be the only North Carolina city that has become part of the movement, according to the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome, Italy, which launched the movement.

More than 1,000 people have been sent to North Carolina’s death row since the state began executing people in 1910, according to the state’s Department of Public Safety. There are currently 150 inmates on death row.

Commentary

Workers left high and dry in salaried overtime decision

Typical workers impacted by overtime rule

Image: U.S. Department of Labor

December 1, 2016 was supposed to be a great day for an estimated 156,000 salaried workers in North Carolina. But thanks to a recent federal court order, yesterday instead brought disappointment and confusion for most of them.

For nearly seven months, thousands of North Carolinians have been anticipating an increase in their pay due to the Obama Administration’s new overtime rule for salaried workers.  The rule, which was announced on May 18, 2016 and set to take effect yesterday, would have raised the salary threshold for overtime eligibility from $23,660 per year to $47,476 per year, effectively raising the amount you must be paid in order for your employer not to have to pay you overtime. That means that *most* workers making less than $47,476 per year (or $913 per week) would have to be paid overtime for each hour over 40 in one workweek in addition to their salary. (This rule only changes one of the exemptions from overtime and does not apply in all workplaces and to all types of jobs. It has to do with what are often referred to as white-collar jobs, or the Executive, Administrative, Professional exemption.) The new rule also includes a mechanism to automatically update the salary threshold every three years.

But last week a judge in Texas blocked the new rule from taking effect.

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