ballot fraud, News, race, Voting

Elon Poll: In wake of Ninth District case, N.C. voters call election fraud a “major problem”

A new poll from Elon University finds more than half of N.C. voters surveyed consider election fraud a “major problem” in the state.

The poll was conducted this week in the wake of the dramatic hearings over alleged ballot fraud in the ninth congressional district,

“Now months out from the tainted 9th District election, North Carolina voters are broadly skeptical of elections in the state,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll and associate professor of political science, in a statement on the results. “A majority of the electorate has clear concerns about the fairness of future elections and the extent of fraud.”

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News, Voting

BREAKING: Mark Harris bows out of NC’s 9th Congressional race

Less than a week after calling for a new election in the 9th congressional district amid allegations of fraud, Mark Harris has announced he will not run in the new election. Here’s Harris’ full statement:

Over the last several days, I have had the privilege of hearing from so many people who have stood with us, cared for us, and who have asked how they can pray for us. In my response to them I have simply said to pray for wisdom and discernment as we make decisions concerning my health situation, the new election in Congressional District 9, and where we go from here.

After consulting with my physicians, there are several things that my health situation requires as a result of the extremely serious condition that I faced in mid-January. One of those is a necessary surgery that is now scheduled for the last week in March.

Given my health situation, the need to regain full strength, and the timing of this surgery the last week of March, I have decided not to file in the new election for Congressional District 9. While few things in my life have brought me more joy than getting to meet and know the people of this incredible part of North Carolina, and while I have been overwhelmed by the honor of their support for me as the Congressman-elect of NC-9, I owe it to Beth, my children and my six grandchildren to make the wisest decision for my health. I also owe it to the citizens of the Ninth District to have someone at full strength during the new campaign. It is my hope that in the upcoming primary, a solid conservative leader will emerge to articulate the critical issues that face our nation.

Over the course of campaigning in the district, I met and got to know one such leader, Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing. Stony, from my observation, along with his wife Anne-Marie, have served Union County effectively through the years. His background and his experience have proven him to stand firm on so many of the issues that concern us, including the issue of life, our national security, and religious freedom. I hope that those who have stood with me will strongly consider getting behind Stony Rushing.

Through the challenges of life, Beth and I continually place our trust in God, and we both know He holds the future in His Hands. Please stay engaged, for it is our civic duty to do so.

Again, it has been an honor to have your love, support, encouragement, and prayers each step of our journey together. Over the next few weeks as I continue to gain strength for surgery, I want to respect my family’s desire for privacy and I will not be doing interviews.

Sincerely,
Mark Harris

Learn more about the ballot fraud scheme in the 9th district from Policy Watch courts and law reporter Melissa Boughton:

Education, News, Voting

Six things to have on your radar this week

Photo by Melissa Boughton

#1  We kick off the week with the State Board of Elections holding a much-anticipated evidentiary hearing today on claims of irregularities related to absentee by-mail voting and other alleged activities in the 9th Congressional District.

The hearing got underway at 10:00am at the North Carolina State Bar in downtown Raleigh.

Outside, pro-democracy organizations have gathered to call for accountability and a new election.

Currently, Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes, but the race has not been certified and the congressional seat remains unfilled.

Policy Watch’s Courts and Law reporter Melissa Boughton is live tweeting the proceedings, which are expected to last a couple of days. You can follow her coverage on Twitter at @mel_bough.

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#2 This afternoon Gov. Roy Cooper will deliver remarks at a ceremony honoring North Carolina’s 9th Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green at the North Carolina State Capitol.

The program will start at 4:00 p.m., with a reception to follow. For those who are unable to attend in person, watch the ceremony online here: https://bit.ly/2RarWjD

You can learn more about Green in this 2018 piece by reporter David Menconi.

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#3 Numerous legislative committees are meeting Tuesday and Wednesday– too many to mention them all. Here are just a couple to pay attention to:

9:00 AM – The Senate Rules Committee meets to discuss Senate Bill 5, a school construction bill titled “Building North Carolina’s Future” in 1027/1128 of the Legislative Building.  Policy Watch’s Greg Childress detailed the bill here last week.

10:00 AM – The Joint Health Care Committee will hear from State Treasurer Dale Folwell and Dr. Michael Waldrum, NCHA Board Chair on the proposed State Health Plan Pricing Model. That meeting will be in 643 of the LOB.

Wednesday’s 8:30 AM Joint Appropriations Committee will include a revenue forecast/budget outlook presentation by Dr. Barry Boardman in Room 643 LOB.

DPI Superintendent Mark Johnson

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# 4 Tuesday evening at 6:00pm State Superintendent Mark Johnson hosts a special invitation-only leadership dinner at the Raleigh Convention Center.

Johnson has promised a major announcements for North Carolina’s education system along with Kelly King, the CEO of BB&T.  But the event has started on a somewhat sour note with Johnson revoking tickets for teachers and public school supporters who had signed-up to attend.

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#5 – Wednesday evening the NC Budget & Tax Center hosts a special talk in Durham on economic issues facing our state.  Under the banner of Economy for All, this event seeks to shape current debate about the role of public policy in advancing more equitable economic outcomes and informing the general public about the issues that we must address to fully realize our potential for greater well-being.

The public is invited to hear from Professor Sandy Darity about his extensive work on advancing an equitable economy in our country and the policy choices that can make that possible.

Learn how you can be part of the conversation here.

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Tina Tchen

#6 – The Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama speaks Thursday at Duke University.

During her eight years at the White House, Tina Tchen served as chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, special assistant to President Barack Obama, and the executive director of the Council on Women and Girls, leading the first-ever White House Summit on Working Families and the first-ever United State of Women Summit.

Tchen will share her unique perspective and insights on workforce diversity and inclusion, breaking through male-dominated industries, and ending campus assault.

The event will begin at 7:00pm at the Bryan Center Reynolds Industries Theater in Durham.

Defending Democracy, News, Uncategorized, Voting

NC NAACP to Gov. Cooper: Veto Voter ID implementation bill

The North Carolina NAACP is urging Governor Roy Cooper to veto Senate Bill 824: “Implementation of Voter ID Constitutional Amendment.”

Members of the civil rights group call the bill the product of “a rushed process by a lame-duck General Assembly that both has been found to be unconstitutionally-constituted by the federal courts and has been voted out of office by the people of North Carolina.”

In a letter sent to the Gov. Cooper Wednesday, NC NAACP President Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman writes:

The rushed and unusual process through which this General Assembly passed SB 824 further demonstrates how little respect the General Assembly has for voters of color. In the two short weeks immediately following the Thanksgiving holiday, this lame-duck General Assembly shepherded a complex bill with the most serious ramifications through a cursory process with few opportunities for public comment and no public examination of the bill’s impact on voters of color and other vulnerable groups. The public was given little to no notice of changes in committee meeting times, and no notice of whether and when there would be opportunities to speak. This mimics the expedited process deployed to enact the ultimately invalidated HB 589 in 2013.

The leadership of the General Assembly contends it was forced to act quickly to pass photo voter ID legislation because of the voter ID constitutional amendment that was passed this past November. But the constitutionality of that amendment itself is an open question that remains pending before the North Carolina courts. Even if implementing legislation were required, a duly-elected General Assembly – one not elected under the cloud of unconstitutionally racially – gerrymandered maps and not sitting in a lame-duck session –will be seated in just a few weeks. And there is no timeline in the text of the Constitutional Amendment that required the hurried actions taken by this legislature resulting in this suspect bill.

Finally, no new justifications have been provided by this General Assembly to rationalize the imposition of the law’s infringement upon the right to vote. A photo ID requirement does nothing to address the state’s most pressing security issues.  It has nothing to do with improving the reliability of voting equipment, safeguards for voter data, protections against foreign interference, or safeguards against the types of irregularities currently under investigation in Bladen and Robeson County. Research consistently shows that fraudulent irregularities in voting are rare, and the types of irregularities that this photo identification could aid in preventing are even rarer—in this state and nationwide.  There is simply no reason, other than the General Assembly leadership’s own improper motivations, that this hastily-ratified bill should go any farther than it already has.

Read the NC NAACP’s full letter here.

Commentary, Courts & the Law, Environment, Legislature, News, Special Session, Voting

The week’s Top Stories on NC Policy Watch

1. The next big battle in North Carolina politics is just days away

The 2018 election may finally be in the rear view mirror, but for better or worse, the next battle over the state’s future will commence very soon – on Tuesday, November 27. That’s the day that Republican legislative leaders will convene the latest of their endless stream of “special” legislative sessions.

Unfortunately, there’s little indication that there will be anything very special about this particular convening – unless, that is, one places a high priority on voter suppression, dishonest schemes to amend the state constitution, and rump, lame duck governance in which unaccountable decision makers attempt to foist lasting change upon a mostly uninformed public.

As usual, we know very little about the specifics of the planned session at this point, but multiple news outlets have reported that it will feature the adoption of legislation to implement (i.e. flesh out the details for) some or all of three constitutional amendments approved by voters last week. That means that we could see legislation related to the amendments on voter ID, victims’ rights and hunting and fishing. The tax cap amendment requires no new legislation.[Read more…] ===
2. With the supermajority doomed, North Carolina should reconsider Medicaid expansion

Despite the manufactured panic of the migrant caravan, despite the midterm’s so-called “referendum on Trump,” despite the nation’s nonsensical gun laws, despite an election that often seemed a direct rebuke of misogynist GOP leaders and policies, the pollsters told us the 2018 election would begin and end with healthcare.

Prevailing wisdom held that, in 2010, voters were rankled by Obamacare when they tossed Democrats and other supporters of former President Obama’s signature legislation.

If past is prologue, 2018’s bad-tempered midterms would spell similar problems for Republicans, who’d, according to the polls, irritated voters by meddling with Obamacare. These days the law, warts and all, enjoys broad support in the general public, and enthusiasm for the GOP’s “repeal Obamacare or bust” campaign seemed to wane even before the late John McCain’s dramatic thumbs down.

Remarkably, a full-throated 41 percent of voters told exit pollsters last week that health care was their most important issue this year, according to NBC News, dwarfing even the economy, gun reform, and immigration. To twist Clinton strategist James Carville’s words, it’s Obamacare, stupid. [Read more…]

3. Partisan gerrymandering will be North Carolina’s next big court battle

Breaking the Republicans’ veto-proof legislative majorities was the short game for North Carolina Democrats and many voting rights activists this year. Their long game? Ending partisan gerrymandering for good in North Carolina.

Common Cause, the North Carolina Democratic Party and a group of individual voters filed a lawsuit earlier this week in Wake County Superior Court challenging the redrawn 2017 maps used in the election last week. They are using the state constitution’s Equal Protection and Free Election clauses as well as the free speech and association guarantees to make their case.

“There is nothing ‘equal’ about the ‘terms’ on which North Carolinians vote for candidates for the General Assembly,” the 69-page lawsuit states. “North Carolina’s Constitution also commands that ‘all elections shall be free’ – a provision that has no counterpart in the federal constitution. Elections to the North Carolina General Assembly are not ‘free’ when the outcomes are predetermined by partisan actors sitting behind a computer.” [Read more…]

***Bonus read: Trump nominee Farr could be confirmed to Eastern District judgeship by end of year

4. Republican legislators pledge to probe Cooper Atlantic Coast Pipeline deal

The Joint Subcommittee on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline voted Wednesday to launch an investigation into Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, albeit one without an investigator — and without any notion of how much the inquiry would cost.

The investigation, spearheaded by Republican Sens. Harry Brown and Paul Newton and Rep. Dean Arp, will look into whether Gov. Roy Cooper’s $57.8 million Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Duke Energy and Dominion Energy was a “pay to play” deal to construct a segment of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in North Carolina.

The lawmakers have implied that, in exchange for ponying up the money — which Cooper would control via an escrow account — the utilities would receive key water quality permits from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). [Read more...]

5. High-powered trial lawyers joust as latest hog trial commences

Robert Thackston, who is tall, bald, with a trunk as straight as a redwood’s, removed his midnight-blue suit jacket to reveal a white twill shirt so crisp it threatened to shatter.

On the seventh floor, in Room No. 2 of the federal courthouse in Raleigh, the Texas lawyer sat at the head of a scurry of attorneys hired by Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer. He rocked in his chair and flipped through his thicket of notes, as if perusing a wine list. He raised his eyes and gazed at the grid of lights in the ceiling. He seemed to be rehearsing.
Robert Thackston

Behind him, in the gallery, fellow Texas attorney Michael Kaeske, graying but boyish, smiled and shook hands with each of the plaintiffs. The eight Black neighbors of a 6,000-head industrialized hog farm near Rose Hill in Sampson County had entrusted him with their story. It seemed to weigh on him. Flanked by lawyers from the Salisbury firm Wallace and Graham, which hired him as the lead attorney, he approached his desk and turned around to face the packed courtroom. He touched three fingers to the side of his neck, as if measuring his pulse.

The fourth hog nuisance case against Smithfield Foods began in US District Court on Wednesday. Yet even before the trial, its methods and strategies contrasted with the previous three. The farm in question, Sholar, is owned and operated by Smithfield Foods. Although in all of the cases the defendant is Smithfield, the company has often used its growers — family farmers contractually bound to corporate whims — as a public relations tool to elicit sympathy. This time, there is no family farmer. There is just Smithfield. [Read more…]

6. Folwell, State Health Plan swim against rising tide with denial of insurance coverage to transgender individuals

North Carolina is not the only state whose transgender state employees and dependents are without insurance coverage under their state’s health plan.

But the state’s blanket exclusion of treatments for gender dysphoria—from counseling and hormone treatment to gender confirmation surgery—puts it firmly in the minority.

Only 12 states in the U.S. currently have explicit exclusions of transgender and transition-related health care in their state employee health benefits. Seventeen states and Washington D.C explicitly provide for this type of care as part of their employee health benefits. Twenty-one states don’t specifically cover the treatment but do not have a blanket exclusion, making it easier for patients to appeal for some treatments and for the coverage to expand to include them.

“Generally speaking, it’s a positive trend,” said Logan Casey with the Movement Advancement Project, a Colorado-based group that tracks state stances on LGBTQ rights issues. [Read more…]

7. Weekly Editorial Cartoon: