Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend: Constitutional amendment is “absurd” and “a farce”

In case you missed it, Raleigh News & Observer had a great editorial over the weekend about the proposed constitutional amendment to require voters to produce a photo ID.

This is from “The photo voter ID amendment is sloppy and illogical”:

If you’re a registered voter in North Carolina, you were issued a voter card from your county board of elections. It contains some basic information about you, including your address, voting place, precinct and in which election districts you reside.

This is your official notification from your government that you are a registered voter.

And, if a constitutional amendment requiring a photo ID to vote passes in November, you probably won’t be able to use your voter card in 2020 to vote.

Got that? You probably won’t be able to use your official voter card to vote. How absurd is that? Because even though the card says you are a registered voter and gives your voter ID number, it doesn’t include a photo.

We say “probably” because no one really knows what happens if this constitutional amendment passes. The amendment says only that it would “require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person.” If the amendment passes, the legislature would decide, probably at a special session in November, what qualifies as identification.

So you’d find out after the vote about exactly what you voted on.

You couldn’t make this up. No serious governing body would take that approach. That’s not legislating; that’s grandstanding….

Republicans say they want to stamp out voter fraud….OK, we’ll play along. Let’s say there’s limited voter fraud now but we want to head off a potential problem by taking precautionary measures. But any precautions can’t infringe upon North Carolinians’ right to vote, which is guaranteed by the state constitution. Strong democracies make voting as easy as possible.

Thousands of residents don’t have a driver’s license but especially the elderly, the disabled, the poor, minority residents and car-less urban dwellers. There are other documents that can identify a person — a utility bill, a bank statement, a fishing or hunting license or other government documents (even a government-issued voter card).

That N.C. legislators appear to have ruled out these other identifying documents reveals their motivation. It’s not about fighting voter fraud. It’s about hindering people who are less likely to vote Republican. Thirty-four states ask voters to show some form of identification but only seven states have what the National Conference of State Legislatures calls “strict” photo ID.

This constitutional amendment is a farce. It doesn’t clearly state what it would do. It cheapens the state constitution with partisan politics. It’s an insult to anyone who values good government and voting rights. It should be defeated.

Commentary

New Trump immigration proposal: Inhumane and incredibly costly

The Trump administration keeps cranking out reactionary and cruel immigration policy proposals. As Rebekah Entralgo of Think Progress reported earlier this morning, the latest would also cost a mint. This is from her story “Report: latest Trump administration immigration rule could cost up to $12.9 billion”:

Last month, the Trump administration announced a new rule that would upend a decades-old ban on the indefinite detention of immigrant children.

The Flores Agreement, which has been U.S. immigration law for 20 years and dictates that children should not be held in detention for more than 20 days, would be replaced by a rule proposed by The Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Withdrawing from Flores, according to DHS Secretary Kristjen Nielsen, is necessary to end one of the “primary pull factors for illegal immigration” — an argument which immigration experts say is deeply flawed.

The new rule would allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to house families in unsafe detention facilities while their asylum petitions play out in court, which could take months or even years.

In addition to extending the length of time an immigrant child is forced to spend in detention, ending Flores would come with a hefty price tag. According to a new report from the Center For American Progress…the proposed rule would cost at least $2 billion and as much as $12.9 billion over the course of a decade — up to $1.3 billion  per year.

The high cost estimates are a result of the dramatically increased length of time the people would be held under the new rule. The Center for American Progress estimates that the number of immigrants detained by the federal government would also exceed the current 3,326-family-detention-bed capacity if the new rule were put into place, therefore additional family residential centers would have to be built out of necessity.

Construction of a new facility would require one-time start-up costs of “at least $72 million and as much as $520 million at the highest end.” ICE estimates the daily cost of detaining a family, meanwhile, to be more than $300.

The estimate of $12.9 billion over a decade to detain undocumented migrant families does not include additional costs incurred by the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS), which runs the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) — the agency tasked with oversight of unaccompanied minors.”

The post concludes by reporting that the number of children held in ORR facilities has spike under Trump because the Trump administration is releasing far fewer children to sponsors.

Commentary, News

As election begins, both gerrymandering and hopes for ending it loom large

The 2018 election is obviously an extremely important one for the future of North Carolina and the nation. Unfortunately, it’s clear that gerrymandered maps will continue to play a central role in determining the makeup off the next Congress and General Assembly. To see confirmation of this check out a new website from the good people at the Brennan Center for Justice. It includes a colorful interactive national map that shows had dramatically congressional maps have been skewed to favor Republicans.

It shows, for instance, how Republicans can retain control of Congress even by winning fewer than 50% of votes. This is from the site:

Districts across the country tend to shift uniformly in response to changes in the national vote. So by adjusting the bar that controls the parties’ national vote share, you can see how their projected share of seats increases or decreases — including the fact that if both parties win 50 percent of the vote, Republicans will still wind up with many more seats. You can also look at individual districts to see which seats change hands as the national vote changes, and to see assessments by two leading election prognosticators, 538 and Larry Sabato. (Note: The 538 number is their estimate of Democrats’ percentage chances of winning the seat, not Democrats’ expected vote share.)

To be clear, the actual national vote percentage needed for Democrats to win a majority may be somewhat lower than the map suggests, especially in a wave year. That’s because of district-specific factors like retirements, scandals, or exceptionally weak or strong fundraising. While some election analysts take those factors into account in formulating their estimates, our map focuses solely on the raw effects of gerrymandering — showing how rigged maps put one side in a hole from the get-go and thwart the will of voters.

When one hovers over North Carolina’s second district for instance, it shows that Democrat Linda Coleman will probably need for Democrats to win 57% of the national vote to win the seat currently held by George Holding.  The same holds in the ninth district where Democrat Dan McCready is up against Republican Mark Harris. That said, most prognosticators have listed both races as toss-ups at this point.

The Brennan Center site, of course, highlights the issue of gerrymandering reform and the issue of enacting nonpartisan redistricting laws at the state level. On this front, the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government are out with new survey results of where North Carolina legislative candidates stand on the issue. Learn more at http://www.nclobbyreform.org.

Commentary

Editorial: Hurricanes show need for tougher regulation of hogs, sewage, development

There was a fine editorial in the Fayetteville Observer earlier this week (and republished today in the Greenville Daily Reflector) that tells it like it is with respect to the massive water pollution issues that confront eastern North Carolina — particularly in what the editorial describes as the “open sewer” that is the Cape Fear River. As the editorial notes:

The extent of the river pollution raises serious public policy questions that need to be addressed. It is urgent and procrastination should be punishable by losses at the polls.

We’ve heard a great deal about the problems caused by massive amounts of animal waste from the pork and poultry industries, which annually raise millions of hogs and tens of millions of chickens and turkeys in this region. Both use primitive technology for waste disposal and have been reluctant to upgrade to safer disposal solutions that are readily available but more expensive that old fashioned open cesspools and piles of poultry litter. The problem is compounded by the location of many of these factory-scale farms in flood plains, where they are vulnerable, especially to epic floods like those brought by hurricanes Floyd, Matthew and Florence.

Tighter regulation is needed and some of those factory farms need to be moved to higher ground. Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed Florence relief package includes funding for farm buyouts and relocations.

While state lawmakers and regulators need to find better solutions to those problems, they turn out to be only one part of the danger we face from the growing number of flooding events that appears to be North Carolina’s new normal. Even more contaminants were released into the Cape Fear and its tributaries by sources we had previously believed to be under control: our municipal sewer systems. Read more

Commentary, Defending Democracy, News

As early voting begins, a quarter-million more North Carolinians are registered than in 2016

"Vote" pin

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Early voting starts today and North Carolina’s steadily growing population is reflected in the latest voter registration numbers. As the 2018 general election gets underway, there are 7,049,452 individuals registered to vote — an increase of more than a quarter-million people over the same time two years ago, when there were 6,795,706 people on the rolls.

Another noteworthy development is the continuing rise of unaffiliated voters. In 2016, 39.7% of registrants were Democrats, 30.2% were Republicans and 29.7% were unaffiliated, with 0.4% registered as Libertarians.

Today, it’s 37.9% Democratic, 31.7% unaffiliated and 29.8% Republican, 0.5% Libertarian and just tiny handful registered as members of the Green and Constitution parties.

Let’s hope the rising registration numbers are paired this year with high voter turnout. As a general matter, off-year elections tend to draw less participation — especially when there is no high profile statewide race like a U.S. Senate contest to attract attention. Most non-presidential elections in recent decades have had voter turnout percentages in the low-to-mid 40’s range. The last one in which there was no Senate race (2006) had a turnout of just 36.58%.

The bottom line: Get out there and do your civic duty.