Voting rightsAs this editorial in this morning’s Charlotte Observer explains, California has hit on a startlingly simple tactic that will both boost voting rates and shine a bright light on the actual reason conservative political leaders keep instituting new roadblocks to voting: automatic voter registration for all driver’s license holders.

The “New Motor Voter Act” will automatically register all eligible citizens to vote when they obtain or renew a state driver’s license. It’s the second such law in the country; Oregon goes even further by automatically registering all eligible adult citizens in the Department of Motor Vehicle’s database.

Federal law already allows for voters to choose to be registered to vote at DMVs. But as California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said: “Citizens should not be required to opt-in to their fundamental right to vote. We do not have to opt-in to other rights, such as free speech and due process.”

California officials say that 7 million additional voters will be registered because of the law. Certainly, eligibility doesn’t guarantee participation, as low voter turnout percentages across the country show. But the law does remove one barrier to voting.

The editorial goes on to say this about the politics of the change:

“All of which leads us to a somewhat delicious feature of automatic voter registration: It lays bare the reason Republicans really don’t want more people casting ballots – because those voters might vote against them.

Read More


The Greenville Daily Reflector ran an editorial this week (which the Charlotte Observer re-ran in part of this morning) that rightfully decries the shell game played by the General Assembly this year in shifting the costs of driver’s education off on to the parents of high schoolers.

In passing the cost of driver education to parents of high school students, state lawmakers appear to be playing a shell game with the taxes North Carolina drivers have been paying for 57 years to support the program. When tax dollars earmarked for specified services no longer pay for those services, the government should not get to keep the money.

If that is what is happening in the case of a $3 charge added to license plate fees for driver education, it represents more than an injustice to taxpayers. It collides head-on with the conservative ideology espoused by the majority leadership in Raleigh….

What is not debatable is that for nearly 60 years tax dollars have been flowing from the pockets of every North Carolina motorist to pay for driver education. To remove the service with no relief to those paying for it — and requiring others to pay again — amounts to something akin to highway robbery.

Not what we should expect from a GOP-led Legislature that professes a desire to shrink government’s reach into our personal lives.

What the piece should have noted, of course, is that rather than being some kind of aberration, “fee for service” government is the right’s favored model these days, while the notion of broadly applicable, fairly distributed taxes are quickly becoming a thing of the past.


DMVThere have been several important court decisions of late so you may have missed an important one that came out this week. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle denied the state’s motion to dismiss an important lawsuit challenging discriminatory practices by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles in the treatment of people with disabilities.

According to Vicki Smith of Disability Rights North Carolina, the group’s director, DMV has long been making use of a set of imprecise and ill-defined procedures whereby many safe drivers who happen to have disabilities but who long ago received licenses and have had no change in their physical status are, as the result of simply being eyeballed by DMV examiners,  subjected to extra and burdensome tests and requirements to keep their licenses.

This is from a media release announcing the court victory: Read More


Immigrant rightsThe following post comes to us from Hector Vaca, Charlotte Director of the progressive advocacy group, Action NC:

“Now hear this!  A People’s platform opposing HB 786, the RECLAIM NC Act

In the last few weeks, I’ve worked with community leaders and members of our organization, Action NC, and various partner groups around the state, to hold community forums in Spanish about House Bill 786, the “RECLAIM NC” Act, being considered now in the state legislature. In the forums, our organizations and lawyers shared information about exactly what is included in each section of the bill.  But the main goal of the workshops was to hear from immigrant communities directly THEIR thoughts and opinions on the bill. Participants had a variety of ways to express their views about these issues, including group discussion, Q&A and interactive activities like voting on various provisions as harmful or beneficial.

By now, forums have happened all over the state, from Hendersonville to Burgaw, from Charlotte to Durham, from Greenville to Siler City, from Raleigh to Raeford, and other towns, too. There have been at least 18 workshops in all. The sizes of forums ranged from 15 participants to 120 or more. More than 750 immigrant community members have participated in total.  This is no small accomplishment, and it means, to us at Action NC, that the immigrant community is discussing the bill in some detail, and here’s what they are saying: Read More


Towed carHB 786, or the RECLAIM NC Act, should be called the “Repo” Act.

Most of the attention in the RECLAIM –er, Repo Act — has been focused on a provision that would provide a limited number of undocumented immigrants driver permits, or on the part cribbed from a racist Arizona bill that would allow law enforcement officers to arrest people they “suspect” might be undocumented immigrants.

One overlooked horror in this bill is Part X. This provision would impound and then sell at auction all the cars driven by anyone who is found guilty of driving without a license, whose insurance has lapsed and a few other similar violations.

Last fiscal year, more than 215,000 people were charged with one of those misdemeanors, according to statistics maintained by the Administrative Office of the Courts. If “Repo” were law in 2012, all the vehicles these people had been driving would have been impounded. Read More