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].

 

Commentary

State Fair cartoonAs has been reported in several places, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens upheld the common sense ban on hidden, loaded handguns at the State Fair yesterday. According to Judge Stephens:

“It would be unwise and imprudent to allow firearms into the State Fair.”

Amen to that. Stephens ruling makes eminent sense for a variety of reasons — the risk of accidents on rides, the enormous, shoulder-to-shoulder crowds on the Midway and the already more-than-adequate presence of law enforcement officials, just to name three.

The decision also figures to be popular with the public. When I went on the conservative Bill LuMaye radio show last Friday to discuss the issue, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that most callers — even self-described concealed carry licensees — thought the Fair an inappropriate venue for firearms.

One thing that the controversy does point out however is this: the law cited by the gun advocates in their lawsuit IS vague. That it even exists in its present form is a testament to the recklessness of the General Assembly and Gov. McCrory in approving it.

Let’s hope that in 2015, legislative leaders and the Guv own up to their mistake in approving the legislation and call for an amendment to specifically ban all hidden weapons at the Fair and other similar venues.

News

On the first full-day of marriage equality in North Carolina, the Wake County Register of Deeds issued 62 marriage licenses in all – 37 to same sex couples, 25 to opposite sex couples.

Laura Riddick, who kept the Register of Deeds office open until after 9 p.m. Friday evening issuing marriage licenses after U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn Jr.  declared North Carolina’s ban on gay marriages unconstitutional, also issued a statement Monday afternoon to those who criticized her actions:

Wake Register of Deeds Laura Riddick

Wake Register of Deeds Laura Riddick

Opponents of same-gender marriage who are unhappy that my office issued marriage licenses in the Wake County Registry after normal business hours Friday in the wake of a historic federal court ruling are either unaware of the full facts, mean-spirited, or both.

I have not advocated for or against same-gender marriage. That is not the proper role of North Carolina’s Registers of Deeds. As I have said many times, we are administrators, not lawmakers or judges.

The touchstones of my work are delivering excellent customer service and following the law at all times. For two years, some proponents of same-gender marriage faulted me for following the
law. Now that the law has changed, some opponents of same-gender marriage are faulting me
for following the law.

Throughout, my position has not changed: Our office follows the law, and we treat all customers
with respect, courtesy, and dignity.

Unlike all but a handful of other Registers of Deeds across North Carolina, I was an involuntary
defendant in the clergy’s federal lawsuit filed in Charlotte. That case, like the two different ones
in Greensboro, was in flux Friday afternoon.

After an emergency conference call with all the parties to the Charlotte case, and with orders also
pending from the judge in the Greensboro cases, I announced that I would close our office at
5:30 unless we received a court order before then. I do not control the actions or the timetables
of federal judges.

At 5:28 p.m., just before we were to close, we received the first of two unexpected orders from
Judge Cogburn in the case in which I was a party. His second order, four minutes later, struck
down the state’s ban on same-gender marriage.

My office was still open; we had not yet closed. More than 100 same-sex marriage applicants of
all ages, and their friends and family members, had camped for two days outside my office door,
expecting a decision by either of the federal judges.

Once the decisive court order came, I could not in good conscience kick those people out and tell
them to come back Monday. I don’t think anyone with a heart would have.

Read Riddick’s full statement here.

News

Busy, busy day in state courts today. Here’s a quick recap:

No guns at the state fair. Wake County Superior Court Donald Stephens upheld the determination of Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler banning handguns from the state fair.

Court orders opening of Appalachian State polling place.  As reported here, Judge Stephens also ordered state election officials to reconfigure Watauga County’s early voting plan to include at least one voting center at Appalachian State University for later this month.

City of Charlotte retains control of the airport. Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin ruled that the city — not a GOP-created 13-member commission — will run Charlotte Douglas International Airport unless and until the commission  gets an operating permit from the Federal Aviation Administration or otherwise gets permission from the agency to use the city’s operating certificate.

 

News

From Rockingham County to New Hanover, from Mecklenburg County to Jackson, Register of Deeds offices across North Carolina are issuing their first same-sex marriage licenses this morning.

QNotes reports that as of this morning, all counties are issuing same-sex marriage licenses:

As of Monday morning, all 100 counties in North Carolina were issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Over the weekend, Iredell County Register of Deeds Matt McCall had said he might not issue the licenses, requesting special notice from North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper or other state officials.

The notice came late Sunday evening in an email to all 100 county registers of deeds from officials at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service.

[...]

“I will be issuing marriage licenses to all applicants,” McCall said after receiving the health department email. “This is the confirmation I’ve been waiting for.”

More on Qnotes

Equality NC has been busy catching up with many couples at the courthouses, taking photos and celebrating. Check out some of their intagram photos below or follow them here.

Equality NC has also compiled some helpful information for those LGBTQ couples looking to get married.

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Legal heroes of winning UCC lawsuit stand with newly married couples and @equalitync staff on #DayOneNC #CLT

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Fred and James getting married in Cumberland County!!!! #DayOneNC

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#DayOneNC #MarriageEquality #Raleigh Gabriella and Shawn looking beautiful while getting married.

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#DayOneNC #MarriageEquality #Raleigh ACLU wedding favors.

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#DayOneNC #MarriageEquality #Raleigh People in the park getting an officiated marriage ceremony with John from UCC.

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