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In case you missed our Crucial Conversation this past Tuesday, here’s the video of the event: (Enjoy!)

2014 is here and, for now, North Carolina government remains stubbornly in the tea party camp. Are voters happy about this? What do they think about the current state of affairs and the politicians running the show? What’s likely to happen this May? How about this November?

And what’s on the state policy agenda for the coming months? Are conservatives wrapping up their agenda or just getting started?

Tom Jensen is the Director of the nationally recognized polling firm, Public Policy Polling and oversees its day-to-day operations. During his time at PPP, he has been a frequent guest for television and radio stations across the region and has been called on for expert analysis by publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor and U.S. News and World Report. He writes PPP’s blog and Twitter account in addition to crafting the content for most of its surveys.

Chris Fitzsimon is the Director of NC Policy Watch and North Carolina’s leading progressive media personality. Chris is a veteran journalist and nonprofit leader whose daily commentaries are heard on radio and read online throughout North Carolina.

Lunch sandwichHere’s something to spur a little dyspepsia on the first day of a short work week: The General Assembly is back in Raleigh!  Yes, just six weeks or so after blowing town, the honorables are back for what will apparently be a two-day veto session. In case you’ve forgotten, the state Constitution (Article II, Section 22) requires an affirmative vote of three-fifths of those present and voting to override a gubernatorial veto and, at this point, it looks very much as if both the House and Senate will produce margins of this amount or greater on both bills at issue. In other words, it would appear that Governor McCrory’s September is about to get off to a start very much consistent with his extremely lousy August – a month so bad that it prompted his hometown newspaper to question his truthfulness.  

And speaking of important official events in Raleigh today, the State Board of Elections will convene at 1:00 to take up an appeal of a candidate challenge to Montravias King from Pasquotank County. Click here to watch the live feed from WRAL. The Board will also consider the appeals for one-stop alternate plans for 2013 municipal elections in Watauga and Pitt counties. Students and civic groups including NCPIRG, Common Cause, Ignite NC, NCSU Student Power Union, Democracy NC and Rock the Vote will be on hand to call on the Board to reverse recent decisions by local county boards of elections that make it harder for young people to vote.

And speaking of “must see” video, Read More

Voting rightsMaybe MSBNC personality Joe Scarborough was just trying to play dumb on his “Morning Joe” show this morning in order to spur controversy and debate. Let’s hope so. Because if the man really is as uninformed as he appeared while making a series of stunningly off-the-mark comments about North Carolina’s new monster voter suppression law, he needs to think seriously about finding another line of work.

The comments came during a mind-numbing, seven-minute exchange between Scarborough, his co-host Mika Brzezinski and Politico’s Mike Allen.  During the segment, Scarborough kept repeating the right-wing prevarication that critics are wrongfully calling Pay McCrory a “racist” because North Carolina’s new voting law is really just a modest little measure that simply requires voters to show a photo ID to vote – a requirement that should be no problem for everyone to comply with.

As has been documented repeatedly, however, the new voter ID requirement is a hell of a lot more than just a modest little change in the law. It is, in fact, a potentially huge barrier to hundreds of thousands of people — people who unlike Scarborough — don’t hop on planes or rent videos at stores at which they are unknown on a regular basis.

But more to the point, of course, is the fact that North Carolina’s new law does much, much more that simply require a photo ID to vote. As Scarborough’s MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow explained in great detail just last week, North Carolina’s new election laws are about suppressing voters who are thought likely to vote Democratic (i.e. people of color, poor  people and young people) in lots of new ways. Indeed, they’re about changing the electoral dynamics in this narrowly-divided state so that it will remain safely conservative for years to come. 

And if Scarborough thinks that’s an exaggeration, he ought to check out this post on The Maddow Blog from earlier today in which Steve Benen quotes far-right grande dame Phyllis Schlafly from an article she authored for the certifiably nuts World Net Daily in which she freely admits the true goal of the new law in North Carolina: Read More

Voting rightsIt’s only August, but this is still a busy time when it comes to North Carolina elections. In accordance with state law, county boards of elections across the state are meeting today to appoint precinct judges for the upcoming local elections.

But what else will they do?

Will some counties look to close early voting sites located on college campuses? Indeed that is already happening is some parts of the state. 

Within a week of Governor Pat McCrory signing the new monster elections bill into law, several counties started taking unprecedented steps to make voting harder for all college students.

Last Monday, the Watauga County board of elections voted to eliminate the early voting site that had been located at Appalachian State University’s student center.

The following day, on the other end of the state, the board of elections in Pasquotank County went a step further in ruling Elizabeth City State University students may not run for local office and possibly will be barred from voting in future local elections.

And last Friday, the chair of the Forsyth County board of elections indicated his desire to have the board shut down the early voting polling site located at Winston Salem State University. 

So, who’s next?   Read More

The list of horribles in the General Assembly’s new voter suppression bill is a long one. As ACLU of North Carolina Legislative Director Sarah Preston remarked last night:

“H.B. 589 attacks democracy at its core as it is clearly designed to make it more difficult for thousands of eligible voters to register and cast a ballot. Many of these restrictions, such as eliminating pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds and disallowing use of college IDs at the polls, will severely discourage young people from participating in elections.  Others, such as shortening early voting and making it more difficult to set up satellite polling stations, will be extremely burdensome for elderly and disabled voters who rely on such methods to cast their votes. In a session marked by attacks on North Carolinians’ most basic liberties, H.B. 589 is one of the most shameful and severe. We urge the House to protect ballot access for all by rejecting this bill.”

One especially awful provision, however, that has not gotten as much attention as it deserves is the one that dramatically expands citizen challenges to voters. Current law requires challengers to live in the same precinct as the voter they are challenging. The new law (see page 35 of the proposed legislation) loosens it to the same county. As multiple nonpartisan good government experts have noted, this change is an extremely worrisome invitation to intimidation, conflict and even violence at North Carolina polling places.

Essentially, the new law invites self-appointed, partisan  election “observers” (who presumably could be armed with concealed weapons) to invade precincts in neighborhoods in which they would like to depress turnout and commence mass challenges to the validity of the identification cards displayed by voters. And don’t think some of the groups behind the legislation aren’t already contemplating such actions.  

In other words, North Carolina’s ongoing transformation into a banana republic continues unabated. God help the Old North State.