Election officials make their voices heard as battleground states debate voting laws

U.S. House panel looks into disinformation targeted at communities of color

Wake County leaders unite to celebrate new non-discrimination ordinances

Elected leaders from across Wake County came together Tuesday to celebrate their unified adoption of non-discrimination ordinances. (Photo: Equality NC)

On Tuesday the Campbell University School of Law hosted elected officials from across Wake County as they celebrated new LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances in Raleigh, Knightdale and Morrisville.

Leaders from those communities signed a joint ceremonial document in support of protections from discrimination in employment and public accommodation in places like restaurants and hotels.

As Policy Watch has reported, the new ordinances became possible when a state ban on new local protections — including nondiscrimination ordinances for employment and housing — was lifted. The ban was a legacy of the  brutal fight over HB 2 and HB 142, the controversial laws that excluded lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from statewide nondiscrimination protections.

Since the ban on new ordinances expired, 18 communities across the state have adopted non-discrimination ordinances.

Campbell’s law school has taken the lead in helping resolve complaints filed through the ordinance process.

Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality North Carolina, applauded the signing in a statement Tuesday.

“Today we celebrated the commitment of Raleigh, Knightdale and Morrisville to making their communities inclusive of all,” Johnson said. “No one should have to fear bigotry based on their ZIP code, nor should they have to move to avoid discrimination. Having non-discrimination ordinances sends a clear and powerful message that all people are welcomed and included in their home communities.”

In its statement, Equality NC stressed new and proactive state and federal protections are still needed.

“We celebrate this commitment to equality and look forward to North Carolina being a stellar example of what diversity and equity look like in legislation,” the group said in its statement. “The momentum behind these signings shows that North Carolina stands ready, and we encourage others to communicate to their local leaders now is the time to pass LGBTQ protections, demand that our state lawmakers fully repeal discriminatory laws and enact proactive protections, and urge our elected officials in the United States Congress and the NCGA to support comprehensive nondiscrimination laws.”

As Policy Watch reported last month, North Carolina has so far resisted a national wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation. But LGBTQ advocates and Democratic state lawmakers warn of gathering momentum for such laws on the political right. With elections looming, the political calculus at both the state and federal level could soon change.

Are the walls starting to close in on Mark Meadows?

Mark Meadows – Image: CSPAN)

There was new evidence yesterday that the sordid and hypocrisy-laced saga of former North Carolina Congressman and Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows could be heading toward at least one of the ignominious conclusions it so richly deserves.

As you may have heard by now, election officials in Macon County have removed him from the state’s voter rolls after learning that he voted in Virginia in the 2021 election. The news comes on top of last month’s remarkable revelation that when Meadows voted a North Carolina absentee ballot in the 2020 election, he did so based on having registered at an address at which he never lived, and may never have even visited.

As Ed Kilgore writes for New York magazine’s Intelligencer website, the new information adds more fuel to hypocrisy-based fire that’s been consuming Meadows’ career of late:

Did Meadows just forget to notify Macon County that he no longer “lived” in the trailer home he may have never visited? A lot of people do move from state to state without going through the trouble of dropping their old registration, though not many of them go to the further trouble of re-registering with a dubious address in the state from which they have moved. Additionally, you might figure there is an extra burden of care in such matters for a man who said this (as the Washington Post reported) about a month before he re-registered in North Carolina at the trailer-home address:

“I don’t want my vote or anyone else’s to be disenfranchised. … Do you realize how inaccurate the voter rolls are, with people just moving around. … Anytime you move, you’ll change your driver’s license, but you don’t call up and say, hey, by the way I’m re-registering.”

The irony is that Meadows apparently did re-register, but in two different states.

Just to make the whole situation even more absurd, Meadows’ wife Debra is still registered to vote at the rundown cabin in Scaly Mountain.

The bottom line: Meadows’ outrageous behavior is just the latest in a long line of incidents in which politicians of the right who rail about “voter integrity” have shown themselves to be opportunistic, “do-what-I-say-not-what-I-do” hypocrites for whom the real goal is suppressing the votes of disfavored groups, not faithful adherence to the law. Happily, a State Bureau of Investigations inquiry into the matter remains ongoing.

As Raleigh Congresswoman Deborah Ross tweeted yesterday:

When the voting fraud investigation is paired with his waist-deep involvement in Trump’s traitorous effort to overturn the 2020 election, it seems hard to imagine that Mr. Meadows won’t, like so many of Trump’s lackeys, be spending a great deal of time during the remainder of 2022 trying to fend off federal and state prosecutors.

Decline in federal grant funding for local elections criticized by advocates

(Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress last week includes $75 million in Help America Vote Act grants — a major reduction compared to years past.

Experts say the $75 million is insufficient to fund local elections and leaves local election offices without resources to improve election infrastructure and protect the security of elections.

Though Congress has only funded local elections three times since 2010, the $75 million in the latest spending bill is far from the $53 billion over 10 years that election security experts say is necessary. It’s also far less than the $500 million proposed by the House in its original spending proposal.

“It’s always great to see Congress getting resources to state and local election officials and really recognizing their responsibility to help fund elections, but $75 million is far short of what is needed right now to really secure and protect our election infrastructure,” said Derek Tisler, counsel with the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice.

“It’s also considerably less than the funding we saw in recent years leading up to the 2020 election.”

In 2018 and 2020 respectively, Congress approved $380 million and $425 million in HAVA Election Security Funds for states to improve the administration of elections for federal office.

But Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said that while the spending bill is a decrease from prior years, she still considers it a win.

“The House bill proposed to reinstate Election Security Grant funding, a priority for House Democrats, after receiving no funding last year,” the Connecticut Democrat said in a statement. “With slim margins in both chambers, passage of the final federal spending package relied on our ability to reach agreements. This transformative federal spending package — including this $75 million in new Election Security Grant funding — is a victory.”

In response to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Congress also designated $400 million for emergency election funding as part of the CARES Act.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission explained that the funding could be used to protect the health and safety of poll workers, staff, and voters during federal elections, including buying cleaning supplies and protective masks and hiring staff needed to process an increased number of absentee ballots.

Though the pandemic is not yet over and many parts of the country may have to administer elections this year while still seeing high case rates, Congress’ latest spending bill does not fund President Joe Biden’s plan to continue fighting COVID-19 and prepare for future variants, nor does it allocate money specifically for administering an election in this unusual time.

Voters in many states have also come to expect some conveniences that debuted during the 2020 election as a result of the pandemic, like increased options for voting by mail, and election officials will need the money to make sure they don’t have to eliminate them.

“To the extent that those things were temporary in 2020, a lot of states are now looking to make them permanent and make them better and more efficient for voters, and that takes a lot of resources,” Tisler said.

Lack of staff, poor broadband Read more