Commentary, News

Vinroot on Voter ID: No secret about it – Republicans tried to “curtail” Democrats

The Charlotte Observer’s Taylor Batten has an amazing account of Republican Richard Vinroot speaking out on the motivation behind voter ID.

Vinroot, a respected Republican who served as Charlotte’s mayor from 1991–1995 and made three unsuccessful runs for governor, was asked about voter fraud and the need for voter ID at a Charlotte business lunch on Wednesday.

We’ll let Batten take the story from there:


Richard Vinroot

Vinroot said there have been instances of voter fraud over the years, and he cited Lyndon Johnson’s election to the U.S. Senate and John F. Kennedy’s election to president in 1960. But…

“It does go on; I suspect it’s at the margins,” Vinroot told the Hood Hargett Breakfast Club. “I don’t think it’s probably enough to justify, on the face of it, voter ID.”

He said almost everyone has ID or could easily get one.

“But it’s clearly about Republicans trying to curtail that voter, there’s no secret about that.

“There’s no doubt there’s some gaming going on on both sides. There’s no doubt the folks who don’t want voter ID are more interested in Democratic voters voting without regard to whether they can identify themselves or not. But you’d be hard-pressed probably today to say all these things (voting restrictions) are justified.”

Kudos to Vinroot for speaking the truth, even if it steps on the toes of most in his own party.

Read the full account here in the Charlotte Observer.

Voter ID will not be required this election cycle. A federal court struck down much of North Carolina’s monster voting law earlier this year.


Authors of HB2 special session say “no” to holding one for hurricane response

Sometimes you just can’t, as they say, make this stuff up. In March of this year, North Carolina’s political leadership took the extraordinary step of summoning 170 legislators to Raleigh for a special session of the General Assembly. The urgent purpose: to pass a law enshrining discrimination against LGBTQ North Carolinians in state law.

Now, seven months later, a huge portion of the state has been impacted by a genuine emergency that’s taken the lives of at least 20 people. And what’s the response of that same political leadership? If you guessed “Oh, let’s wait and see what to do. Better not rush into action” you’d be right on the money.

Perhaps the most outrageous statement thus far, however, comes from Gov. McCrory’s state budget director, Andrew Heath. Heath told Raleigh’s News & Observer that calls from state Senate Democrats for a special session to marshal state responses to Hurricane Matthew were “a shameful display of political theater.” This from a man whose boss has not missed an opportunity in the last few days to grandstand in front of TV cameras — even if all he was doing was regurgitating weather news that everyone had already seen.

The bottom line: There will certainly be plenty to do to respond to Hurricane Matthew for some time to come, but the idea of a special session in the near future — if only to make sure that the state’s responses to the crisis are properly aired and vetted — makes a lot of sense. The notion that the authors of the HB2 special session won’t even consider interrupting their re-election campaigns to consider such a possibility speaks volumes.



Today’s “must read” news story: The hate that helped fuel and sustain HB2

NO-HB2Be sure to check out a powerful news article that appears in this morning’s Charlotte Observer. In “Permission to hate: North Carolina doesn’t see a need to protect LGBTQ people. But we found victims whose stories say otherwise,” reporter Elizabeth Leland details the experiences of several LGBTQ North Carolinians who have been discriminated against, victimized and even subjected to violence merely because of who they are. What’s more, she finds, HB2 has made things much worse. Here is an excerpt:

“Since the passage of House Bill 2 on March 23, attention has focused on North Carolina and how it treats its estimated 336,000 LGBTQ residents.

HB2 was nicknamed “the bathroom bill” because it requires people to use restrooms in government-run buildings that correspond with the gender on their birth certificates – thus barring many transgender residents from public restrooms that match their identity.

But the law goes beyond bathrooms.

In what critics call the most anti-LGBTQ legislation ever enacted, HB2 abolished a Charlotte ordinance that added sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, the same as race, age, religion and gender. HB2 also banned local governments in the state from passing their own non-discrimination ordinances.

Gregory Herek, a psychology professor at the University of California-Davis who is an expert on anti-gay violence, said HB2 sends a broad symbolic message: ‘It’s conveying to people in the state who are LGBT that they are not full citizens.’

The new law, scholars and advocates believe, has given people permission to hate.”

The story goes on to, among other things, explore the obliviousness of HB2 sponsor Rep. Dan Bishop and Gov. McCrory for their insensitive and ignorant remarks about the reality of life for LGBTQ people.

“In defense of HB2, an expert witness for the state wrote in a court document that gender identity that doesn’t match gender at birth is a mental disorder which can be reversed with therapy.

Some elected officials have used similarly dismissive language. The author of HB2, State Rep. Dan Bishop of Charlotte, called transgender individuals ‘cross-dressers.’ McCrory referred to them as’“boys who may think they’re a girl.’

Multiple studies indicate that being a transgender person is not a choice. There is a biological basis. The American Psychiatric Association specifically states that ‘gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder.’”

The article concludes with a painfully detailed exploration of the stories of several individuals subjected to hate, discrimination and threats because of their sexual orientation — some of whom have ended up losing their lives. Let’s hope Gov. McCrory and other pro-HB2 politicians muster the courage to read this important work of journalism. Click here to read it yourself.
News, Voting

State Board of Elections addresses voting contingencies after Hurricane Matthew

I_Voted_StickerMany North Carolina counties are still recovering in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, but voting must go on. In a memo Wednesday to County Boards of Elections, the State Board instructs officials to process voter registration through next week regardless of the postmark, as long as the voter’s application is dated by the Friday deadline.

With respect to applications you receive by mail, the U.S. Postal Service has informed our agency that certain of their offices are temporarily closed, resulting in interrupted pick-up and delivery in those areas. Among other temporary changes, USPS has rerouted certain mail for processing, which may result in a delay in postmarking. In response to known delays with the mail, county boards are hereby instructed to accept and process for the 2016 general election all voter registration forms that are:

  • Delivered by mail or commercial carrier
  • Received on or before 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19
  • Dated by the voter on or before Oct. 14

Election offices will only accept voter registration forms delivered in person through 5 p.m. Friday.

The State Board of Elections anticipates certain voters will have difficulty accessing county elections offices and instructs directors to work with National Voter Registration Act partners within their respective counties to endure all applications are dropped off and promptly delivered and processed.

Certain counties are still assessing the full impact Hurricane Matthew may have on early voting sites and Election Day precincts. County boards should stay in contact with this office regarding any changes arising out of this emergency, and are instructed to provide such notice to voters, political parties, and the media as is practicable. We are proud of your vigilance in the face of this challenge.

Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina, said in the context of North Carolina having same-day voter registration during its 17-day early voting period from Oct. 20 through Nov. 5, he thinks the SBE memo is fairly reasonable.

“They’re threading the needle between trying to be helpful without opening a can of worms,” he said.

With same-day registration, voters can fill out the form, show an identifying document and vote at an early voting site when it’s open. They cannot vote on Election day. In a press release, the SBE encouraged voters who miss the registration deadline to take advantage of same-day registration.

“Despite the devastating effects of the hurricane, we want all eligible North Carolinians to know the many options available to register and vote in this election,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the SBE.

Identifying documents that will be accepted for same-day registration are:

  • NC driver’s license
  • Photo identification from a government agency
  • Student identification with a school document showing the student’s address
  • Utility bill, bank statement, payroll stub or document from any government agency with the voter’s name and current address

Hall called same-day registration a very valuable safety net. He also recommended County Boards take initiative when it comes to voting contingency plans in the wake of the hurricane.

Dave Miranda, spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party, said the organization always encourages making voting easier for residents. He also pointed to same-day registration as a good back-up plan for individuals in flood-ravaged counties.

The state’s GOP communications director did not return an email seeking comment.

Plans for extended early voting hours or announcements regarding a change in residents’ voting sites due to flooding have not yet been made, but will likely vary county by county, Hall said.

Courts & the Law, News

Planned Parenthood CEO makes stop in Triangle, encourages women to vote in upcoming election

Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards meets with voters Tuesday at the Democratic field office in Cary. Photo by Melissa Boughton

Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards meets with voters Tuesday in Cary. Photo by Melissa Boughton

Women’s rights are very much on the ballot this November, and now more than ever, they should exercise their right to vote, according to Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards.

Richards was in the Triangle as part of an effort to raise awareness of reproductive rights and other women’s issues in the run-up to the election.

She talked about women’s issues she thinks are important, including paid family leave, affordable child care, access to healthcare and raising the minimum wage, an issue that disproportionately impacts women.

Richards also said cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, as North Carolina has tried to do in the past, affects more than a woman’s access to abortion – it cuts off her access to cancer screenings, family planning and well-woman exams.

Richards’ visit comes during a period in which a number of North Carolina laws affecting reproductive rights and health have been in the limelight. These include:

  • The Women’s and Children’s Protection Act of 2015 , which requires women seeking an abortion to wait 72 hours before the procedure is performed. The same law also requires doctors to record and submit detailed information about the unborn child to the Department of Health and Human Services – a step that is not required for other types of reproductive procedures.
  • Another bill that was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory last October prevents women from having the choice to voluntarily donate fetal tissue after an abortion, even if it’s for research purposes.
  • An anti-sex education bill passed in 2013, in which middle school teachers are required to inform students (erroneously according to many experts) that abortion is a risk factor for pre-term delivery later in life.
  • The Women’s Right to Know Act, which was passed in 2011 over a veto by then-Gov. Beverly Perdue, which required doctors to perform an ultrasound on a woman with or without her consent at least four hours before an abortion to show her the images and describe them. A U.S. District Court Judge overturned the law in 2014, which the Fourth Circuit agreed and the U.S. Supreme Court later refused to take up, leaving the lower court ruling in place.

A review of state voter registration statistics reveals that Richards may have good reason for bringing her message to North Carolina. According to the most recent data, women make up 53.2% of the state’s 6.8 million registered voters.