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voteThe three guest speakers who joined Chris Fitzsimon at today’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon delivered mostly optimistic messages about the long-term electoral prospects for progressives in North Carolina in the years ahead. For a variety of reasons — history, voter attitudes on the issues, improved organizational structures to name a few — Tom Jensen, Carol Teal, and Dan Blue III remain quite positive about the future. (We’ll post a video of the event in the coming days.)

That said, there’s no denying that there were some troubling and discouraging developments on November 4 — both in the elections results themselves and in the frustrating apathy of many potential voters who might have participated. In this vein, a regular NC Policy Watch contributor, Prof. Charles Beem of UNC Pembroke, recently authored the following election post mortem that is decidedly less optimistic.

Troubling takeaways from the election
By Dr. Charles Beem

There are a lot of disturbing takeaways from the recent election results. For progressives, Thom Tillis’ narrow victory and the stronger-than-ever, gerrymandered majorities in the General Assembly and the state’s congressional delegations were enough to make one feel as if the energetic Moral Monday protests and organizing efforts of the past couple of years have produced precious little effect.

Perhaps even sadder is the fact that it is clear today that a critical mass of citizens simply do not seem to care who gets elected to public office, while a highly motivated minority, whose hatred of President Obama defies a rational explanation, are the tail wagging the dog of contemporary America.

The day after the election I made the mistake of asking the eighteen students in my World Civilizations class how many of them voted last Tuesday. The answer was none, even though (or perhaps because, in part) North Carolina’s voter repression law had severely circumscribed their ability to vote.

Scary, right? What is even more chilling is that earlier in the semester this same class read the book “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” in which author Thomas Cahill persuasively attributed the fall of the Roman Empire (an empire plagued by structural decay, grave economic disparity between rich and poor, and barbarians at the gates — sound familiar?), to the fact that the Roman people ultimately did not care enough to intervene. Instead, they allowed the affluent to drive their civilization into the ground simply for their own short term economic benefit. Sad to say, not a single student made the critical connection between the lessons of history and their own reality as American citizens. Read More

News

Michele Jawando, Vice President of the Legal Progress project at the D.C.-based Center for American Progress, faxed a letter to the North Carolina State Board of Elections this afternoon voicing concern over “barriers to voting that need to be immediately addressed.” This is from the letter:

Today, however, there is evidence of barriers to voting in North Carolina that need to be immediately addressed. For example, there are reports that voting machines in Guilford County have registered incorrect votes; polling places in predominantly African American neighborhoods have been down; a polling place near Bennett College, a historically black college, having incorrect voter rolls; and another polling place missing essential thumb drives. Finally, around the Charlotte metropolitan area, voters have been confused about their precinct location. This is particularly troubling, as this is the first election that voters will not be permitted to cast provisional ballots in an incorrect precinct.

These examples of failed vote tabulation, incorrect voter rolls, and precinct confusion make it clear that voters in North Carolina are not freely able to exercise this most cherished right. We call upon the state board of elections to investigate and address these issues immediately to ensure that North Carolinians can exercise their legal right to vote.

Read the entire letter by clicking here.

News

API VoteAs ballots are cast all over the state today, it is important to remind voters and poll workers about Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act which allows voters to get language assistance at the polls. The relevant North Carolina statute states that any registered voter who has trouble reading is allowed to be assisted in the voting booth by any person of their choice, except a candidate for office.

Unfortunately, poll workers are often not trained to comply with this law. This lack of knowledge and training results in voters not being able to get assistance from a person of their choice and, in worst case scenarios, can result in a voter not casting their vote due to a lack of language assistance.

Many ethnic groups face these language challenges at the polls but a new report put out by Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) puts a spotlight on the language problems faced by Asian Americans, since their vote could affect the outcome of the midterm election. According to the report, 32.65% of the Asian American population in North Carolina has limited English proficiency. A 2012 post-election survey of Asian Americans found that turnout among those who had difficulty speaking English was nine percent lower than those who are English proficient. Overall, in 2012, eight percent of Asian Americans who have difficulty speaking English cited language barriers as a reason for not voting. Read More

Commentary

This morning’s top “you can’t make this stuff up” entry from the folks on Right Wing Avenue has to be this post from “The Locker Room” blog. In it, the author slams mail-in voting as part of a nefarious liberal plot to promote fraud and end the secret ballot.

Mind you, these claims come from one of the very groups that championed North Carolina’s “Monster” voter suppression law even as progressive critics were repeatedly blasting that law’s one-sided and blatantly partisan provisions to make voting more complicated and difficult for everyone except absentee, mail-in voters.

In other words: The Pope people would do well to get their stories straight. If they are really worried about fraud in mail-in voting, they might want to think about taking a look at the laws in their home state. Of course, to do that might actually lead to a lower turnout amongst the people that the Pope people want to vote — i.e. older, wealthy and white voters.

Hmmm — wonder how this will turn out?

Commentary

Caring and thinking North Carolinians should utter a word of thanks today to some dedicated advocates and activists working to make sure that all who wish to vote can do so. Of particular note are:

1) The legal experts at the UNC Center for Civil Rights, which is hosting a national voter protection hotline today. As the group noted in a news release yesterday:

UNC School of Law students, with other community volunteers, are staffing a toll-free, non-partisan hotline to answer voter questions on Election Day, Tuesday November 4th, as part of Election Protection, a national voter advocacy effort. Voters can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) or 1-888-VE-Y VOTA (888-839-8682) with questions about their rights and the voting process….This November is the first major election after the passage of North Carolina House Bill 589, which significantly changed the voting laws in North Carolina. The Election Protection Hotline will provide resources to support voters at the polling place. Voters can call the Hotline to report any problems they encounter or witness at the polls, verify their registration status, or find their polling location.

and, 2) the student activists at Ignite NC. This is from a release that group distributed this morning: Read More