Commentary, News

Hopeful news for 2020? Student voting was way up in 2018.

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David Rice of the group Higher Ed Works forwarded along an article from Inside Higher Education this morning that includes some encouraging news about a Tufts University study on student participation in U.S. elections. This is from “Massive Surge in Student Voting”:

Turnout among college student voters more than doubled from the 2014 to 2018 midterm elections, according to a new report suggesting that a traditionally apathetic voting bloc may significantly influence next year’s presidential contest and politics at large.

Political researchers say efforts by colleges and universities to boost student civic engagement are paying off and that nearly 40 percent of students who were eligible to vote cast ballots in the 2018 elections, a significant upswing from 19 percent in the 2014 election. The change reflects a nationwide rise in voting participation in nearly every age demographic, but the spike among students is particularly noticeable.

The report released Thursday by Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education details the surge in college student voting. The National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement, which launched in 2013, is now widely considered to be the best gauge of student voting patterns….

The study also found that voting rates were up among students of all races.

As noted, the report attributes the spike to variety of factors — from the rise of Trump to intentional efforts on college campuses to spur student participation. In the latter vein, it highlights a program at UNC Greensboro:

For instance, students at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro are given a checklist when they move out of the dormitories that asks them whether they’ve updated their voter registration with their new address.

Not surprisingly, the growth in participation has alarmed some conservatives.

Lawmakers are taking notice that students — who overwhelmingly tend to vote liberal — may play a role in the upcoming election. Some lawmakers have tried to limit early voting centers on campuses, as a result. For example, the former Maine governor Paul LePage, a Republican, went so far as to disseminate misleading information about the requirements for voting.

Kim Reynolds, the Republican governor of Iowa, recently was accused of disenfranchising college voters by scheduling two special elections on dates when certain students would not be on campus.

The bottom line: One can only hope that the events of the last few years, as well as the growing existential threats posed by the climate crisis and environmental challenges, have spurred young people to awareness and action and that it’s not a temporary phenomenon.

Commentary

Columnist makes case for expanding Supreme Court if Dems sweep in 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

In case you missed it, New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie made a compelling argument this week that, in light of the Trump administration’s aggressive right-wing court packing of recent years, Democrats should consider expanding the Supreme Court if they somehow sweep the presidency and Congress in next year’s election.

As Bouie points out, even if the Democrats do win such a sweep, it’s entirely likely that a coterie of right-wing judges made possible by years of hardball minority government could well stymie the policy agenda that voters will have endorsed. This, Bouie says, would represent a miscarriage of justice to which Democrats should respond with their own brand of hardball by expanding the Supreme Court:

Congress, according to the Judiciary Act of 1789, decides the number of judges. It’s been 150 years since it changed the size of the Supreme Court. I think it’s time to revisit the issue. Should Democrats win that trifecta, they should expand and yes, pack, the Supreme Court. Add two additional seats to account for the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the Gorsuch and Kavanaugh nominations. Likewise, expand and pack the entire federal judiciary to neutralize Trump and McConnell’s attempt to cement Republican ideological preferences into the constitutional order.

The reasoning underpinning this proposal isn’t just about the future; it’s about the past. We have had two rounds of minority government in under two decades — two occasions where executive power went to the popular-vote loser. Rather than moderate their aims and ambitions, both presidents have empowered ideologues and aggressively spread their influence. We are due for a course correction.

The goal isn’t to make the courts a vehicle for progressive policy, but to make sure elected majorities can govern — to keep the United States a democratic republic and not a judge-ocracy. Yes, there are genuine constitutional disputes, questions about individual rights and the scope of federal power. At the same time, there are broad readings of the Constitution — ones that give our elected officials the necessary power to act and to solve problems — and narrow readings, which handcuff and restrict the range of our government.

Bouie goes on to acknowledge that his proposal will be controversial and not without many potential pitfalls — both political and constitutional. But he also notes that when President Franklin Roosevelt tried such a move in the 1930’s, it ultimately produced the desired result.

Roosevelt eventually came to court-packing as the solution to this problem. He was forced to abandon the plan, but it had the desired effect: The Court allowed him — and Congress — to govern. Facing similarly hostile ideologues, as well as an organized effort to entrench minority rule, today’s Democrats should learn from this example.

Bouie’s argument is certainly a provocative one, but one thing he is assuredly correct about is that the Right has been the only side in the national political debate that’s truly been playing hardball politics in recent decades. This needs to change.

Defending Democracy, News

New report: NC’s Latinx communities poised to have big impact in 2020 election

This graphic from the report shows some of the growth in turnout by Latinx voters.

The good people at Democracy North Carolina are out with a new “must read” report this morning on the state’s Latinx voters. This is from the release that accompanied “Emerging electorate: Latinx voters in North Carolina”:

DURHAM, N.C. (September 19, 2019) — Latinx voter turnout in North Carolina surged in 2018, and the number of Latinx North Carolinians who are eligible to vote is growing quickly as young Latinxs come of age. These are top takeaways from a new  report by Democracy North Carolina, El Pueblo, and North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations; the piece looks at Latinx communities in both rural and urban parts of the state, presents Latinx-specific concerns and needs related to elections, and highlights the work of local organizations who are mobilizing Latinx voters.

Read the full report now at demnc.co/latinx

The report examines the latest trends in voter turnout, voter registration, and population growth for Latinx North Carolinians. Democracy North Carolina Senior Researcher Sunny Frothingham, who authored the report, noted data that suggests an even greater proportion of Latinx North Carolinians will be eligible to vote in future elections. “While about two thirds of North Carolina Latinxs are citizens, almost all Latinxs under 18 are citizens — 94 percent. As a result, we can expect Latinx communities to play an even greater role in elections to come, as younger Latinxs reach voting age.”

“This report demonstrates the tremendous potential that our communities have to influence the future of North Carolina,” stated Angeline Echeverría, Executive Director of El Pueblo. “In addition to the focus on trends in voting, the report sheds light on the 2020 Census and the concerted effort that must be made to count Latinx families–and particularly children under the age of 5.”

North Carolina voters will see additional barriers to voting take effect in 2020, including a photo ID requirement and the elimination of the last Saturday of Early Voting, some of which will disproportionately impact Latinx voters.

Looking ahead to 2020, Tomas Lopez, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina, stated that “Many people in Latinx communities feel concerned and increasingly unsafe in the current political climate— whether because of or in spite of that climate, their voices mattered more than ever in North Carolina in 2018, and that’s poised to continue.”

Key findings include:

  • The number of Latinx voters in North Carolina has quadrupled since 2008. As of Summer 2019, there are almost 200,000 self-identified Latinxs registered to vote in North Carolina, accounting for 2.9 percent of North Carolina’s 6.6 million registered voters.
  • Latinx voter turnout surged in 2018. Two and a half times the number of self-identified Latinx voters cast ballots in North Carolina in 2018 than in 2014. In 2018, 35 percent of Latinx registered voters cast ballots in 2018 compared to just 20 percent in 2014.
  • The county with the most Latinx voters was Mecklenburg, where over 12,000 Latinxs cast ballots in 2018, for a turnout rate of 38 percent.
  • The vast majority of Latinx voters in North Carolina are registered as either Democrats (43 percent) or unaffiliated voters (42 percent), while only 14 percent are Republicans and 1 percent are Libertarian. Less than 1 percent of Latinxs are registered with the Green Party or the Constitution Party.
  • The greatest number of Latinx voters are concentrated in urban counties, while Latinxs make up a greater share of registered voters in several southeastern counties. Cumberland, Johnston, Mecklenburg, Onslow, and Union are in the top ten for both number and percentage of registered voters.

Click  here to read the full report.

Commentary

Editorial: Legislature is unfit for redistricting task

The joint editorial boards of the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh’s News & Observer hit the nail on the head this morning with an editorial summing up the redistricting process that’s been proceeding at the General Assembly the last several days. Their conclusion: the judges who ordered the process should take back control of it because it’s impossible for lawmakers to handle the duty in a proper fashion.

Here’s the conclusion: “NC’s new voting maps have already failed”:

While these maps are certainly an improvement over the gerrymandered maps they might replace, the new maps still face questions about the intentional protection of incumbents, and they appear to rely too much on the unconstitutional maps in place.

Mostly, though, the past two weeks have affirmed a larger truth — that even with looming warnings from the court about partisanship, it’s near impossible to keep politics from bleeding into maps. Lawmakers, regardless of party, will often operate in their self-interest, and voters will support them. It’s what Democrats and Republicans have done for decades. It’s what happened once again this month.

It’s why Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Democrat from Charlotte, said that although he was generally satisfied with the maps his chamber produced, he’ll vote against them. “These are the fairest maps, and this was the fairest process, in North Carolina in my lifetime,” Jackson said. But, he said: “Independent redistricting would look just like the process we just went through, except it wouldn’t be politicians doing it.”

We agree, and we believe the court should wrest the maps from the hands of lawmakers and either give the task to a special master or, if there’s time before 2020, allow lawmakers to pursue an independent commission that would produce N.C. districts not colored by partisanship and self-interest. Lawmakers have had their chance, for decades and again this month. They’ve failed.

News

National Women’s Law Center demands congressional investigation of Kavanaugh in light of new evidence

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh speaking at his 2018 confirmation hearing.

This past Saturday, the New York Times reported on more allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his days as a college student at Yale. The story has spurred many demands for a new and thorough investigation and calls for Kavanaugh’s impeachment.

The following statement was issued this morning by Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center:

A year ago, the National Women’s Law Center, along with a broad chorus of organizations and concerned citizens, called for a full Senate investigation of Brett Kavanaugh. Today, a New York Times op-ed reveals that their own investigation has uncovered a previously unreported allegation against Justice Brett Kavanaugh and identified several of his Yale classmates who have information that corroborates some of the sexual misconduct allegations against him. One former classmate tried desperately to alert the FBI about his own knowledge of Kavanaugh’s misconduct in the days before the final vote. But he never heard back from the FBI. After Christine Blasey Ford’s credible testimony—along with separate allegations of sexual misconduct by additional women—the Republican-led Senate orchestrated a sham investigation that intentionally ignored evidence and crucial leads in order to rush the confirmation of Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. This is a disgrace. The public was denied a full accounting. The institution of the Supreme Court was denied a full accounting.  Now, a year later, Congress must finally get this right and conduct a full and thorough investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh.