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If you weren’t able to attend NC Policy Watch’s Crucial Conversation with the Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina, that full program is now available online.

This week’s event featured watchdog Bob Hall discussing the large and potentially illegal campaign contributions from individuals affiliated with the controversial “sweepstakes” industry to some of North Carolina’s top elected officials.

Please watch and then share this special presentation as Hall discusses his findings, what Democracy NC is asking prosecutors to do, and the overall state of political corruption in North Carolina politics today.

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Commentary
The State Board of Elections - Foley on the left, Howard in the center.

The State Board of Elections – Paul Foley on the left, Chairman Josh Howard in the center.

The scandal surrounding the forced, late night resignation of State Board of Elections member Paul Foley has given rise to some pretty creative wordsmithing by SBOE chair Josh Howard. How else to explain these two facts from this story by the Raleigh News & Observer’s Craig Jarvis:

#1- Foley lied repeatedly about his knowledge of his law firm’s representation of a controversial video sweepstakes business. He even did it publicly on Wednesday during an SBOE meeting.

#2 – When Foley decided finally to resign late Wednesday night, Howard issued a statement in which he said, among other things, “There has been no finding of wrongdoing by Mr. Foley….”

I suppose Howard’s claim is technically true in some sense — no official investigator has, apparently,  yet, made any formal finding that Foley violated any laws. But good grief, the man out and out lied to Howard and the rest of the Board and the public about a highly important matter just hours before he resigned. That would seem to be an obvious and blatant bit of wrongdoing that Howard would have to be a complete nincompoop not to see.

All of which makes a citizen wonder what else Foley lied about during his stint on the Board and what other acts Chairman Howard and his colleagues are carefully parsing their words over.

Good government watchdog Bob Hall told Jarvis:

“I’ve never seen a board member, Republican or Democrat, so miserably fail to recognize their duty to serve the public interest, rather than a selfish business or partisan interest. The State Board of Elections had no hope of being a credible agency if Foley continued to serve and be accepted as a member by his peers.”

Howard’s carefully worded statement is enough to make a person wonder whether Hall was being extremely charitable.
News

voteNew data put out today by Democracy NC found that voter participation was higher in the state for the 2014 midterm election than it was in 2010. In general, voter turnout increased across the board for most subgroups but the most significant increase came from the group of unaffiliated voters. Of the 250,600 more people who voted in the 2014 election, almost two-thirds were Independents. Among Democrats and Republicans, the changes were slight. Even though more Democratic women came out to vote in 2014, Republican men continued to turnout in higher numbers. Since the percentage of party-affiliated voters didn’t change drastically, it certainly seems that Independent vote had a serious impact on the outcome of the election.

According to Bob Hall, director of Democracy NC, “Thom Tillis gained the edge from independent voters, conservative Democrats and the higher turnout of Republican voters,” while “Senator Kay Hagan benefited from the increased turnout of Democratic women and African Americans.”

The African American vote increased by 1.9 percentage points in the midterm election, which Hall credits to the efforts of groups including, Democracy North Carolina, the NC NAACP, Common Cause, and the League of Women Voters, who mounted yearlong campaigns to educate voters about the new voting rules.

However, Hall notes that, the increases in voter participation, both within subgroups and overall, aren’t necessarily a cause for joy. He explained that no party or group can be proud of an election where more than half the registered voters did not participate. “The loss of same-day registration cut out at least 20,000 voters,” he said, “and the end of straight-party voting and out-of-precinct voting created long lines and enormous problems that pushed away thousands of more people.”

Democracy NC’s full press release can be read here and voter turnout data can be found here.

Commentary

Voting rightsThe good people at Democracy North Carolina released a new and detailed report today that documents the negative impact that North Carolina’s new “monster voting law” has already had on voter participation. The report actually provides the names, hometowns and zip codes of 454 voters who were denied the right to vote in the May primary, but who would have been allowed to vote under the rules governing the 2012 election. This is from the report, which is entitled “Be Prepared: Hundreds of Voters Lost Their Votes in 2014 Primary Due to New Election Rules”:

We analyzed the provisional ballots cast in the 2014 primary by more than 400 voters whose votes would have counted in 2012, but who were rejected this year because of two changes in the rules: (1) these voters were unable to register during the Early Voting period because they couldn’t use the old “same-day registration” law; or (2) they were unable to cast a ballot on Election Day outside of their own polling place because they couldn’t use the old “out-of-precinct voting” law.

Voters denied a chance to have their voices heard include a veteran returning from Afghanistan whose registration was incorrectly terminated while he was away; a first-time voter who registered at the DMV, but that registration didn’t reach the local board of elections; a precinct judge assigned to a precinct other than her own who couldn’t leave to vote in her home precinct; a disabled senior who was driven to a friend’s polling place on Election Day; a nurse who temporarily registered her car in a nearby county while working at its hospital for nine months; a college student who registered during a voter drive but her application was not recorded; and a new couple in town who mailed in their registration but it did not reach the county board of elections before the registration deadline…. Read More

Uncategorized

Just in from the watchdogs at Democracy NC (click here to read the entire report):

State Legislators Pile Up $8 Million for Campaigns;
Incumbent Advantage Will Grow with PACs’ “Gratitude Money”

A review of financial reports by the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina shows that state legislators running for reelection have stockpiled more than $8 million in cash for the final months of the 2014 campaign.

Legislators of both parties can also expect a windfall in special-interest donations when the General Assembly adjourns, likely this week, said Bob Hall, director of the nonpartisan group.

The 101 Republican legislators seeking election to the NC House or Senate hold $6.8 million in cash, more than four times as much as the $1.5 million held by the 52 Democrats. (The other 17 legislators are retiring or running for another office, or they were defeated in the primary.)

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) led all lawmakers with $1,015,460 in cash as of June 30, the deadline for the most recent financial report. The next report is not due until late October. Senate Republican Majority Leader Harry Brown (R-Onslow) is next with $444,267, followed by Democratic Senator Josh Stein (D-Wake) with $347,413.

Because Speaker Thom Tillis is running for the U.S. Senate, the Republicans in the House who have the most cash are Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) with $251,573 and Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) with $246,216. Both men have Democratic opponents in the general election, but neither challenger had more $9,000 as of June 30.

“The combination of big-money fundraising and highly partisan redistricting means we’re seeing less competition in general elections,” said Hall “It’s hard to hold legislators accountable when they don’t have competition.”

Of the 153 legislators seeking reelection, 74 – or nearly half of them – face no opposition from the other major party. Read More