Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Elections sites won’t display ‘No Photo ID Required’ signs

Early voters might notice something a little different at the polls today: election sites will not be displaying “No Photo ID Required” signs this year.

“With a constitutional amendment on the ballot regarding photo voter ID, there are concerns this signage could ultimately be more confusing than it is helpful to voters, and that it could be perceived as taking a position on the merits of the amendment,” states a Monday memo from State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement Executive Director Kim Strach. “Voters who ask should be told verbally that they do not need a photo ID.”

Strach, who was appointed by former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory,  has the authority to specify what supplies, signage, and other materials must be present at each voting site, according to the memo.

A GOP-backed constitutional amendment requiring voters to have a photo identification to vote is one of six on the ballot this year. Lawmakers have not told voters how they plan to implement a voter photo ID requirement if the amendment passes or what type of photo ID would be required. Opponents of the amendment say it would give them a blank check to discriminate against certain voters, particularly voters of color, the elderly and those living in poverty.

The memo about photo ID signage was sent to county boards of elections. State Board spokesman Pat Gannon added in an email Tuesday that aside from what’s in the memo, some counties didn’t have enough signs in good condition to cover early voting sites and polling locations.

“We wanted uniformity in voting site setup throughout the state, per the new rule cited in the memo,” he added.

There are several new rules cited in the memo, including ones that affect voting site uniformity, curbside voting regulations and clarification of Strach’s emergency authority as executive director.

The memo also notes that state law does not describe what county boards should do with the official constitutional amendment explanations once received.

“However, you should have copies in your office if the public requests more information about the amendments,” the memo states. “It is important that you remind your precinct officials that they may not provide any substantive information about the amendments.”

Members of the public can find the official explanations here. Read the full State Board memo below.

Numbered Memo 2018_14 by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

Commentary, Defending Democracy, News

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

"Vote" pin

Creative Commons License

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.

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

BREAKING: 3-judge panel rules Board of Elections, Ethics Enforcement structure unconstitutional

A three-judge panel ruled the evening before early voting that Republican lawmakers unconstitutionally restructured the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement after Gov. Roy Cooper was elected.

Provisions of a state law restructuring the State Board (including its executive director and chairperson) and county boards of elections violates the separation of powers clause in the Constitution by diminishing the Governor’s control over the agency, according to the 2-1 opinion released after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Judges Jesse Caldwell III, a Democrat who presides in Gaston County and Todd Burke, a Democrat who presides in Forsyth County signed the opinion. Judge Jeffery Foster, a Republican who presides in Pitt County, wrote a dissenting opinion noting that he believed the issues were political questions and therefore nonjusticiable.

The split decision enjoins the parts of the law ruled unconstitutional but suspends that injunction until after the November election is certified so the election process can continue without interruption.

It’s not immediately clear if GOP legislative leaders will appeal the decision. There is a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot that also restructures the State Board.

The State Board currently consists of nine members — four Democrats, four Republicans and one unaffiliated voter. The executive director is Kim Strach, who was appointed by former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. County boards are composed of four members evenly divided by Republicans and Democrats.

The proposed constitutional amendment would eliminate the unaffiliated representation on the State Board and give the legislature more appointment power over the agency.

Read Tuesday’s full court opinion below:

3-judge panel order NCSBE by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

News

State Board of Elections delays Hise hearing, will hear other interesting cases

Wednesday’s meeting of the state Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement won’t feature the hearing planned for Sen. Ralph Hise, whose campaign finance case has been in the investigation stage for nearly two years.

Policy Watch reported a back-and-forth over a proposed delay of the hearing last week. The Hise hearing was pulled from Wednesday’s agenda over the weekend as disagreements between the board and its staff over whether the investigation was complete enough for a hearing led to partisan bickering on the board and beyond.

Wednesday’s meeting will still feature several interesting cases, including  Rep. Rodney Moore’s (D-Mecklenberg) alleged $10,000 in  unreported campaign contributions . 

The board will also hold a hearing on the removal of Cornelia Cree, a Republican member of the Haywood County Board of Elections who made posts on social media accusing Democrats of  to legalizing pedophilia as part of a bizarre conspiracy theory about winning the Catholic vote.

The board will also discuss the settlement of one of the largest campaign donation forfeitures in state history, in which 48 improper donations from the Pfizer Inc. political action committee were forfeited by political campaigns and committees across the state.

Environment

PFAS, but not GenX, found in blood of residents living near Chemours plant

Jimmy Dew’s family owns Marshwood Lake, just northeast of the Chemours plant. He spoke earlier this year at a public information session in Bladen County. His family’s well has been contaminated with fluorinated compounds. (File photo: Lisa Sorg)

Four types of fluorinated compounds were detected in blood samples of all 30 people tested who live near the Chemours plant, although none of the compounds was GenX, the NC Department of Health and Human Services announced today.

In July, DHHS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Cumberland County Health Department tested for 17 types of fluorinated compounds in the blood and urine of 30 people living near the facility, which abuts the Bladen-Cumberland county line.

All of the people who voluntarily participated in the program use well water for their household needs. Many of the private wells, plus rainwater, lakes, soil, groundwater and even honey have tested positive for fluorinated compounds.

All study participants had some level of PFHxS in their blood. It is often found in carpet and firefighting foam.  

Also detected in all blood samples, the compounds n-PFOA, n-PFOS, and Sm-PFOS are variations of C8. It is used to make non-stick coatings, including Teflon, and can be found in fast food wrappers, pizza boxes, and microwave popcorn bags.

Although manufacturers like DuPont have phased out their use of C8 — replacing it with GenX — the compound persists for years in the human body and the environment. C8 is classified as “likely carcinogenic,” which means they can cause cancer. However, not everyone who is exposed to these compounds develops cancer. The compounds can also cause low birth weight, high cholesterol, a depressed immune system, reproductive and developmental problems, and thyroid and hormonal disorders.

C8 is the compound that triggered the class-action lawsuit by residents who drank well water contaminated by discharge from the DuPont plant in Parkersburg, WV. DuPont paid $670 million to settle the litigation.

The median detection levels of PFHxS and n-PFOS in the 30 North Carolina residents were higher than that of the US population. Median is the midpoint between the lowest and highest readings.

The highest level of PFHxS in blood among study participants was 6.7 parts per billion. By comparison, 95 percent the US population tested has levels of 5.6 ppb or below, according to 2013-14 data from the CDC.

Similarly, the highest level of n-PFOS among the study participants was 34.6 parts per billion. In the general US population, it was 14 ppb. People who drank from wells near the Parkersburg, WV, plant had median levels of 38 ppb.

Other findings included:

  • Nine of 17 fluorinated compounds were found in the blood of at least one of the participants. The other eight were not detected at all.
  • Only one fluorinated compound was found in urine, and that was at the lowest detectable level.

The sample size was small because the CDC could not test more people. Each household could have a limit of one adult and one child from 12 to 17 years old. No infants, toddlers or young children were tested.

The Environmental Protection Agency was expected to release its guidance on groundwater cleanup of fluorinated compounds, as well as human health toxicity values and a PFAS management plan as soon as last month. An EPA spokesperson told Policy Watch that the agency “continues to work toward releasing the toxicity values in the coming weeks, the groundwater cleanup values and management plan this year.”