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Chris Kromm has a must-read post today over at Facing South, the blog of the Institute for Southern Studies entitled “How Art Pope killed clean elections for judges in North Carolina.” 

Art Pope 3“On the afternoon of Tuesday, June 11, as the North Carolina House jousted over details of the state budget, Rep. Jonathan Jordan, a Republican attorney from the state’s mountain region, decided to help the legislature reach a compromise on a thorny problem.

At issue was the N.C. Public Campaign Fund, a popular program launched in 2003 to help free judges from relying on deep-pocketed — and potentially compromising — special interest donors to get elected. Eighty percent of eligible judges — conservatives and liberals — used the voluntary program, which awarded candidates a grant to help run their campaign if they raised at least 350 small donations and agreed to strict spending limits. Read More

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Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies has an excellent story this morning about yesterday’s through-the-looking-glass “science” lecture at the General Assembly by self-appointed climate expert John Droz.

As Sturgis reports:

His [Droz’s] slideshow presentation, titled “The Assault on Science,” was a compilation of claims purporting to show that science is in danger from a hostile conspiracy involving the scientific elite, environmentalists, educators, and the media — but his own sources were rather unscientific, to say the least.

Among the publications Droz cited to make his case were Whistleblower, the monthly magazine companion of WorldNetDaily, a website that promotes conspiracy theories about topics such as President Obama’s citizenship; Quadrant, a conservative Australian magazine that was involved in a scandal over publishing fraudulent science; and the Institute for Creation Research, a Texas outfit that rejects evolution and promotes Biblical creationism and the notion that “All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the Creation Week.”

Perhaps the most important and disturbing part of Sturgis’ story, however, was this paragraph that appeared near the end: Read More

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The group behind the misleading, confusing, and racially charged robo-call which caused investigative intrigue Monday was revealed today as Women's Voices, Women's Votes (WVWV), an ostensibly progressive and non-partisan electoral engagement organization with ties to the Clinton campaign.

A report by the Institute for Southern Studies unveiled the connection after Democracy NC issued a complaint to the State Board about the robo-calls earlier this week. 

Officially, Women's Voices Women's Votes' stated mission is to engage more "unmarried women" in the election process, and it claims to be leading a 3 million person nationwide registration effort.  However, the sincerity of this mission has been called into question with the revelation that Women's Voices was behind the misleading and confusing robo-calls placed to thousands of North Carolina residences late last week.  The calls provided vague information that caused many registered voters to question whether they were registered to vote.  It was also revealed that the organization was behind similarly dubious "registration efforts" in Virginia, Ohio and other states.

Both the North Carolina robo-call and the registration mailing planned for 276,000 North Carolina households come weeks after North Carolina's by-mail primary registration deadline, giving further cause to suspect it is not part of a legitimate voter registration effort.  Critics point out that the calls and mailings instead come just as North Carolinians are voting in mass in the state's primary, and has the potential to cause confusion for hundreds of thousands of voters.  Critics also point out that the message seems purposefully targeted at African-Americans and others who are already registered.

The Obama campaign has called the calls "extremely disturbing" and said they are similar to classic "voter suppression" techniques. 

Attorney General Roy Cooper has said the calls are illegal and has sent the group a strongly worded letter telling them to cease their calls

At the State Board's and Democracy NC's urging Women's Voices has apologized for "the confusion" and said they will try and intercept the mailing, but it is not yet known if this will be possible.

Here's WVWV founder and President Page Gardner's response to "the confusion" and their involvement 

The group's earlier robo-call featured a racially charged message from a "Lamont Williams" urging people to "make their voices heard," to anticipate voter registration packets in the mail, and then sign and return them.  However, it included no information about the date of the election, early voting or same day voter registration, and was placed to many residences where voters were already registered.  The message did not cite Women's Voices Women's Vote's involvement or provide a call back number.  You can hear a recording of the message here.

Chris Kromm at the Institute for Southern Studies has an exclusive report about the controversy. 

The report is all over the blogosphere and has been linked to at Daily Kos , Talking Points Memo, Politico , and America Blog .

Kromm writes:

"For such a sophisticated and well-funded operation, which counts among its ranks some of the country's most seasoned political operatives, such missteps are peculiar, as is the surprise expressed by Women's Voices staff after each controversy.

In at least two states, the timing of Women's Voices' activities have raised alarm that they are attempting to influence the outcome of a primary.  As we reported earlier, in Virginia, news reports surfaced the first week in February that prospective voters were receiving anonymous robo-calls telling voters that they were about to receive a voter registration packet in the mail."

Here's what Bob Hall at Democracy NC said about it before and now: 

"The reports from other states are very disturbing, especially the pattern of mass confusion among targeted voters on the eve of a state's primary," Democracy North Carolina's Bob Hall tells Facing South. "These are highly skilled political operatives — something doesn't add up. Maybe it's all well-intended and explainable. At this moment, our first priority is to stop the robo-calls and prevent the chaos and potential disenfranchisement caused by this group sending 276,000 packets of registration forms into North Carolina a few days before a heated primary election. We need their immediate cooperation."

Here's a clarification about how voter registration actually works in North Carolina put together by the Center for Voter Education.