Congressional Black Caucus calls for Senate action on voting rights

Challenge filed against Cawthorn candidacy under anti-Confederate provision of 14th Amendment

Rep. Madison Cawthorn

In case you missed it, the national nonprofit group Free Speech For People is representing a group of North Carolina voters who are challenging the candidacy of Rep. Madison Cawthorn for reelection to Congress under a provision of the 14th Amendment designed to prevent ex-Confederates from serving in public office. A high-powered team of North Carolina attorneys, including two former state Supreme Court justices, have signed the challenge.

Cawthorn derided the complaint, tweeting: “Left-wing activists are trying to stop me from fighting for YOU THE PEOPLE! I won’t be stopped. Help me fight back!”

The following was posted to the Free Speech For People’s website today:

North Carolina Voters Challenge Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s Candidacy for Reelection Under Fourteenth Amendment’s Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause

First Such Challenge to Candidate Eligibility Filed Since the Reconstruction Era

RALEIGH, NC – A group of North Carolina voters has filed a legal challenge to U.S. Representative Madison Cawthorn’s 2022 candidacy. The challenge, filed before the North Carolina State Board of Elections, alleges that Cawthorn is constitutionally disqualified from public office under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution based on reasonable suspicion that he helped facilitate the January 6, 2021 insurrection.  The voters are represented by Free Speech For People, a nonpartisan, non-profit legal advocacy organization with constitutional law expertise, which is serving as lead counsel in the matter; Wallace & Nordan, a North Carolina law firm specializing in election law; and Robert F. Orr, a former Republican Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.  James G. Exum, Jr., a former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, serves as Of Counsel in the matter.

Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment, known as the Disqualification Clause, provides: “No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress. . . who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress . . . to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” The purpose of the Disqualification Clause, passed in the wake of the Civil War, is not to punish the oathbreaker but rather to protect the country. No criminal conviction or prior adjudication is required under the Disqualification Clause, although Cawthorn would be able to seek judicial review of an adverse decision.

“The coordinated and violent January 6 attack on the United States Capitol in an effort to prevent Congress from certifying the presidential vote was an insurrection against the United States. The Constitution disqualifies from public office any elected officials who aided that insurrection,” said Ron Fein, Legal Director of Free Speech For People. “As set forth in our complaint, the publicly available evidence, including Representative Cawthorn’s own statements and reports that he or his office coordinated with the January 6 organizers, establish reasonable suspicion that Representative Cawthorn aided the insurrection, thereby disqualifying him from federal office. We look forward to asking him about his involvement under oath.”

Under North Carolina’s candidacy challenge statute, any registered voter in his district may challenge his candidacy based on “reasonable suspicion or belief” that he “does not meet the constitutional or statutory qualifications for the office.” Once a challenge is filed, the burden of proof shifts to the candidate, who “must show by a preponderance of the evidence . . . that he or she is qualified to be a candidate for the office.” The statute authorizes “depositions prior to the hearing, if requested by the challenger,” and “subpoenas for witnesses or documents . . . including a subpoena of the candidate.” The challengers intend to depose Cawthorn and members of his staff—something that the U.S. House January 6 Select Committee has not yet done. Read more

‘We thought that we would die’: Lawmakers probe painful Jan. 6 memories

Jan. 6 succeeded. Here’s what’s next.

A rioter sits in the Senate Chamber on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

If the point of the Jan. 6 insurrection was to establish that a significant portion of the country is done with democracy, it succeeded.

The attack on the U.S. Capitol one year ago by violent supporters of former President Donald Trump — whose lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him was the fuel for the attack and whose exhortations to followers that they march on the Capitol and “fight like hell” was the spark — is the most consequential episode of domestic discord since the Civil War.

Some leaders excused the attack or sympathized with the attackers. John “Tig” Tiegen, a surrogate for Trump’s reelection campaign in Colorado, said about the attack in the hours after it occurred that “a little fear is always good.” Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado has sought better treatment for Capitol rioters charged with crimes.

But the attack horrified most Americans, who were aghast at its violence and shocked that such a breakdown of constitutional order could occur in the United States. A common expectation in the immediate aftermath of the insurrection was that such a stain of MAGA toxicity would compel Republicans who previously feared Trump’s wrath to finally reject him as a danger to the republic and would demonstrate to conservative voters that, no matter how much they might admire Trump’s brash manner or believe he was “good on the economy,” he would ultimately tear the nation apart.

“Hey, Republicans who supported this president,” said a visibly shaken Stephen Colbert on the night of Jan. 6, 2021. “Have you had enough?”

The answer, as is clear 12 months later, is no.

Within hours of the Capitol siege, Republicans voted to object to the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania. In all, 147 GOP senators and representatives joined this disgraceful show of contempt for democracy, and it was only the first proof that the insurrection, far from chastening Republicans, was in fact an articulate expression of the party’s aims.

The lie that the 2020 election was fraudulent was advanced most brazenly, on election night, by Trump himself. Only days later, America First fundamentalists, who have no interest whatsoever in free and fair elections, birthed the “stop the steal” movement, and it has since only gained momentum. “Election integrity” activists, as they so preposterously style themselves, have turned up all over the country seeking, through the courts, at county clerks’ offices, and in neighborhoods, to spread the gospel of fraud so that American voters will never again trust an election. These are the franchise haters responsible for the sham election “audit” in Maricopa County, Arizona, and the election system security breach in Mesa County, Colorado. Groups of self-appointed, conspiracy-crazed “canvassers” have gone door-to-door bullying voters with “election integrity” interrogations. Trumpist state legislators in 19 states since the 2020 election passed 34 laws restricting access to voting.

Assaults on democracy indisputably have had the intended effect. Only 1 in 3 Republicans say they’ll trust the 2024 election, according to a recent poll. Another recent poll found that 30% of Republicans agree that “true American patriots might have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

The election-losing right decided even before Trump it cares more about power than democracy. Gerrymandering, especially since 2010 and reaffirmed in the latest redistricting process, has undemocratically tilted the electoral scales right. The Senate, egregiously undemocratic by its very design, in that one voter from sparsely-populated Wyoming effectively wields about 70 times more influence in the Senate than one voter from dense California, increasingly favors the interests of white, non-college educated voters.

Beyond structural flaws, extreme Republican tactics have drained the once-proud institution of democratic energy and saturated it with partisan poison.

Even the military, typically vaunted for its nonpartisan quality, is compromised. Read more

Demonstrators gather in Raleigh to decry Jan. 6 insurrection, demand action to protect American democracy

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside of the Federal Building in downtown Raleigh today on the one-year anniversary of last January’s U.S. Capitol insurrection to demand action that would help prevent future such attacks on American democracy.

Citing the close connections between the forces that helped organize the insurrection and ongoing efforts to limit voting rights, assert partisan control over election oversight in several states, and gerrymander legislative and congressional districts, demonstrators and speakers called for the passage of legislation that would help secure broad participation in free and fair elections, including the Freedom to Vote Act, the Protecting Our Democracy Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and DC Statehood

The event was organized by the groups Tuesdays with Tillis Indivisible and the NC Poor People’s Campaign and featured speakers from an array of progressive nonprofits, including the Chapel Hill Carrboro NAACP, All On the Line – NC, Democracy North Carolina, and the NC Poor People’s Campaign.

Led in part by veteran Tuesdays With Tillis organizer, Rev. Karen Ziegler (pictured at right), the demonstrators worked closely with attending law enforcement officers to make sure that the event was peaceful, did not impede public access to the Federal Building and complied with public safety rules — a move that was clearly designed to draw a contrast with the ugly lawlessness of last January’s riot in Washington. At one point, demonstrators seemed to emphasize the dramatic difference by chanting “this is what democracy looks like.”

Despite the overtly peaceful nature of the event, passion amongst attendees was not in short supply — especially when it came to demands that North Carolina representatives in Washington (particularly Senator Thom Tillis) abandon their obsequiousness to former President Donald Trump and his repeated lies about the 2020 election.

Today’s event was one of just hundreds taking place in communities across the country in remembrance of the insurrection. Candlelight vigils will take place this evening in several North Carolina communities. A January 6 Vigil for Democracy will take place from 5:30 to 7:00 pm tonight in Raleigh on Bicentennial Plaza across from the entrance to the Legislative Building. Raleigh’s News & Observer reports that demonstrators will gather tonight in Chapel Hill at 5:30 at the intersection of Franklin and Columbia Streets.

Here are a couple of additional photos from today’s event: