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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!

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In case you missed it, the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, a middle-of -the-road group known for conducting painstaking, in-depth research has issued a scathing analysis of the legislation pending in the state Senate to restrict voting.

Here is the special report the group emailed out last night:

Last Minute Changes to HB 589 Would Undermine Gains Made To N.C. Voter Turnout

Summary: Tonight, the N.C. Senate passed a Committee Substitute on 2nd reading for House Bill 589 that adds at least 7 new election law provisions to the bill, which originally was solely a voter photo ID bill.  The changes will reduce the number of days in the early voting period and end same-day voter registration.  The Center does not take a position on requiring a photo ID in order to vote because we have not done research on the issue.  However, the Center opposes the additional election law provisions because, as we found in our research in 1991 and 2003, early voting and same-day registration have worked to increase voter turnout and civic participation, because there is public support for these measures, and because the legislative process used to tack these provisions onto a moving bill is bad process and one we have criticized in additional reports over a 20-year period. Read More

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Bob Hall, Executive Director, Democracy North Carolina, released the following statement this afternoon on the Senate’s new voter ID bill:

“The state Senate released its version of H-589, the photo ID requirement bill today. A comparison of some features with the House version is below.

The Senate bill takes a double swipe at college students, making it harder for them to vote. It refuses to accept student IDs from any college; the House at least accepts those from the UNC and community college systems. And it restricts the use of an out-of-state driver’s license to 90 days from the day of becoming a NC registered voter; the House accepts the out-of-state driver’s licenses as a legitimate government-issued photo ID. These are unnecessary, mean-spirited changes that target and punish college students who want to participate in the civic life of their college community.

The Senate version keeps a House provision that will make the NC law one of the most restrictive in the nation – harsher than the ones in Florida, Idaho, Michigan and several other states with a photo ID requirement. Read More

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Though the  number of African-Americans elected to state legislatures in this area of the country since enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 has grown to over 300, they have effectively been shut out of the power structure.

That’s the conclusion Tom Edsall reaches in today’s New York Times — perhaps the most cogent explanation to date of just how Republicans have used redistricting laws, and in particular the concept of “majority minority” districts, to entrench themselves in state legislatures:

Republican legislators in the South have moved aggressively on two fronts to secure their power: by designing legislative and Congressional districts minimizing Democratic prospects and by moving ahead with legislation designed to suppress voting under the guise of combating voter fraud.

Mark Braden, a Republican lawyer who’s worked for years on redistricting efforts in the South, admitted as much in a recent forum at the Brookings Institution (as quoted at the electionlawblog):

 . . of course, redistricting based upon race has been vital to the creation of the Republican Party itself.  I mean, there’s no question about that throughout the ‘80s, ‘90s.  People that were working with me was the minority community in the South, and that’s what permitted the Republican party to become the majority party in those states at the local and legislative level.  

Edsall proceeds to discuss just how that happened — with what could be the playbook used for the 2011 redistricting plan upheld this week by a three-judge panel here :

Republicans in control of redistricting have two goals: the defeat of white Democrats, and the creation of safe districts for Republicans. They have achieved both of these goals by increasing the number of districts likely to elect an African-American. Black voters are gerrymandered out of districts represented by whites of both parties, making the Democratic incumbent weaker and the Republican incumbent stronger.

 

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#1 comes from the Charlotte Observer which, in response to the recent decision upholding GOP-drawn legislative districts, makes another strong case for passing nonpartisan redistricting legislation now:

“Legal doesn’t necessarily mean fair, however, and our opinion on redistricting remains the same. The process in North Carolina is flawed and time consuming. It allows the party in power to protect incumbents by drawing districts in a way that dilutes the opposition’s strength. It takes choices away from voters. Read More