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mcblog2In a lengthy and, at times, awkward and disjointed press conference, Gov. Pat McCrory said today that he would sign House Bill 589 — the controversial bill to alter state voting and elections laws. The bill, which was originally about imposing new voter ID requirements but morphed this week into an omnibus 57 page proposal to restrict voting in numerous ways, was passed by the House late last night  and will be presented to the Governor on Monday.

What was perhaps the saddest and most illuminating moment of the press conference, however, came when a reporter asked the Governor about some of the less-thoroughly-publicized portions of the bill. After testily dismissing a question about a provision on lobbyist “bundling” of campaign contributions because the reporter noted that it had been spurred by allegations against the Governor’s former law firm and erroneously saying that North Carolinians can register to vote “online,” McCrory addressed a question about the bill’s language to do away with the current successful program to pre-register 16 and 17 year olds. Here’s what the Guv said:

“I don’t know enough…I’m sorry, I haven’t seen that part of the bill.”

Got that? Governor McCrory has already decided to sign a bill — one of the most important and dangerous bills to come down the pike in years — and he is not even aware of one of the more controversial provisions — a provision that was debated at length this week multiple times!

C’mon Guv: We know you’re still relatively new to this job, but the least you could do is spend a little time with staff preparing for these press events and maybe even reading the bills you’re defending to the media and the public!

Just when you thought the 2013 session of the North Carolina General Assembly had hit rock bottom, it’s about to get a hell of a lot worse. Click here to see the worse-than-anyone-would-have-ever-imagined voter suppression bill that has emerged in the state Senate. The new 57 page proposal will be heard this afternoon at 2:00 pm in the Senate Rules Committee.

According to good government advocates who have gotten a chance to examine the proposal after obtaining a copy last night, the bill includes dozens of disastrous provisions including:

  • no more pre-registration for 16 & 17 year olds
  • no more paid voter registration drives
  • elimination of same day voter registration Read More

In a 7-2 decision by Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court held today in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council that the National Voter Registration Act preempts an Arizona law that required local election officials to refuse to register any would-be voter who did not present satisfactory evidence of U.S. Citizenship.

In separate opinions, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.

The Constitution gives the states the authority to decide “the time, place and manner” of holding elections for federal officials, but also gives Congress back-up authority to “make or alter such regulations.” The Constitution also provides that when federal and state law clash, federal law will prevail.

The NVRA was passed in an effort to increase the number of eligible voters in federal elections, and to ensure that voter registration rolls are accurate and current.  It spells out three methods for registering voters for federal elections.  Voters may sign up to vote when they apply for a driver’s license, apply by mail using a federal form, or register – using the federal form – at sites designated under state law or by state voter registration officials.  States must create a combined driver’s license (or non-driver ID) and voter registration form, and the law requires federal officials to draw up a federal form — a nationally uniform voter registration application to be used in getting registered by mail or at a registration office. On the federal form, the would-be voter must declare that he or she meets voter eligibility requirements, including U.S. citizenship.

Under Arizona law, the requirement of proof of  citizenship was a separate mandate, not fulfilled by having the federal form.

 

 

 

 

Here’s a quick look at what many consider to be the major cases still awaiting decision as the U.S. Supreme Court heads towards the close of its term in late June, with affirmative action, marriage equality and voting rights topping the list.

Though the Court typically releases opinions on Mondays, it could add additional days as the month winds down, as it did last year when it released the opinion in the Affordable Care Act case.

Other cases to be on the watch for:

Collection of DNA from criminal arrestees

In Maryland v. King, the court must weigh the needs of law enforcement against the privacy rights of those who have been arrested for a crime. States allow the collection of DNA for those convicted of a crime, but lower courts are split on whether states can collect DNA without a warrant from people who have only been arrested. The federal government and 28 states allow the collection of DNA from arrestees. Justice Samuel Alito called this “perhaps the most important criminal procedure case that the court has heard in decades.”

Arizona proof of citizenship 

At issue in Arizona v. The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc. is a section of state law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote in federal elections. Critics of the law argue that it puts an additional burden on voters and conflicts with a federal law, the National Voter Registration Act.

Patents on human genes

In Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., researchers, doctors and others are challenging patents held by a company on isolated DNA from the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 genes. Women with mutations in those genes are said to have a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The challengers say that the patents prevent other companies from developing better genetic testing. But the company, Myriad Genetics, argues that their innovation has led to that testing and that they need the patents to protect billions of dollars for research.

One of the more controversial bills of this year’s voter suppression package at the North Carolina General Assembly is Senate Bill 667 – a proposal that would purport to prevent parents from claiming their children as tax deductions if they register to vote in the communities where they attend college.

Now, it appears, we know where the lead sponsor, Senator Bill Cook, of got at least some of the inspiration for the bill — from local officials in one of the counties he represents (Pasquotank). As it turns out, suppressing the votes of college students there (at least the African-Amerian ones)  is  a popular sport for some conservative politicians.

Attorney Clare Barnett of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice has the story:

Black student voters challenged and removed from voter rolls

Fifty-six students at the historically black university, Elizabeth City State University, were removed from the voter registration rolls by the Pasquotank County Board of Elections after challenges by the local Republican Party Chair. During an 8 hour hearing, the Pasquotank GOP Chair, Richard Gilbert, challenged Read More