Democracy has died in North Carolina. As I show below, and as members of the Electoral Integrity Project have found, North Carolina has failed to pass the same tests the US uses on voting rights abroad. Here are the most recent developments.
While I was packing for the pre-Christmas trip to visit my sister, my Twitter feed went wild with one and then another outrageous thing the NC General Assembly Special Session (the fifth this year) had wrought. I would gasp “Oh, God!” as one and then another power grab took place. There was zero sunlight on any of this, as Democrats and the media were not even allowed advanced information about upcoming votes.
The General Assembly was furiously legislating away almost all the power of the governor, the Constitutional separation of powers be damned. It happened again and again, as they took away most power the governor has had. It was, in short, a legislative coup.
For instance, the General Assembly made sure that NC Governor-elect Roy Cooper (D) can only appoint a small fraction of the appointments other NC governors could. The General Assembly further removed Cooper’s ability to appoint trustees of the UNC system, thus denying him the ability to influenced educational policy at state universities. The General Assembly made sure that Cooper cannot accept Medicaid expansion. They stole his ability to make appointments to electoral boards, which have long gone to the governor. Of course they had no problem with lame-duck NC governor, Pat McCrory, appointing Electoral Board heads throughout the state. No, in the new post-democracy world, it was fine for McCrory but Cooper can not do the same.
There was more. R’s are making sure they can dictate electoral policy ad infinitum. The end result is that NC is now ranked as a failed state, a dictatorship, by an organization which rates countries according to their democratic principles and electoral actions. It is that bad. You have to read this article to see how really pathetic a US state (or the country as a whole?) can become if R’s are allowed to run roughshod.
We returned to NC in the wee hours of last Tuesday. The very next day, the General Assembly was at it again, with a fifth special session which came crashing down on North Carolinians. In this one, General Assembly Republicans doubled down on HB2 (the infamous “bathroom bill”), therefore doubling down on hate. They tricked the city of Charlotte into a deal, by which Charlotte would repeal its anti-discrimination ordinance and then the General Assembly would repeal HB2. (How could Charlotte have believed that was a good deal?) And when Charlotte kept its share of the bargain, the R-dominated General Assembly promptly backed away from its part. Sadly, anyone who trusts these guys will keep their word is a sucker.
One party, not even in the majority in the state, had already taken the final blow against the right to vote with its fifty-page law assaulting voting rights. It did not obey court orders to repeal and abandon most of its bogus voter ID law, but instead figured out end runs around much of the order. Although voter ID could not be required, Republicans confused voters about this and thus discouraged as many as 200,000 voters from voting. Several hundred thousand other voters were dissuaded from voting, and turnout was the lowest in several decades.
It should be noted that as the whole voter ID issue initially broke, DMV offices around the state have been underfunded and overpopulated. A visit can easily take three hours to a half-day or even more. And that does not include the paper chase for those older North Carolinians who were born at home, have difficulty retrieving very old documents, or changed their names (e.g., due to marriage).
Republicans further subtracted polling places in numerous predominately African American neighborhoods. They falsely accused those adjudicated guilty of misdemeanors as belonging on the felons list. They falsely claimed properly re-enfranchised felons (who had served their sentences) were wrongly voting. The Republican governor tried to use fake lists of so-called double voters, concocted to defame and disenfranchise Democrats, mostly minorities. Those people were either wrongly on the list in the first place or had simply moved (no “double voting” at all). Both in 2013 and in 2016, Boards of Elections had examined the questionable lists of supposed double voters and found them worthless. And yet the NC GOP kept at it using the lists defaming lawful voters before November 8th and beyond. McCrory attempted to use the lists to either deny Cooper his victory and/or cast doubt over the election of Roy Cooper so they could further delimit his power. R’s tried wrongly to throw out the vote of 90,000 formerly out of state students who are now legal residents of NC. The state GOP forced huge lines at or near campus polling places so college students had a hard time voting between classes. The governor went after the county of largely Democratic Durham trying to delegitimize its pro-Cooper vote count when a hand recount showed even more votes for Cooper. GOP rewrites of history will lie about that.
The NC General Assembly has also stood against one person/one vote, against the rule of law, and against equal protection of the laws. Some people need not apply (for full rights of citizens). As I reported before, they had repeatedly gerrymandered Congressional seats so the majority party only got 3 of 13 seats, while the R’s got 10. Most Republican incumbents are guaranteed a win because of Democratic district packing which renders future democratic victories impossible.
North Carolina remains the best example of why Corey Stewart and his own threats to democracy should be retired from Virginia politics and also why Ed Gillespie should never, ever be elected governor of Virginia. And definitely don’t forget that what has happened to us down here in NC has been devastating, quite possibly irreversible as well — the system is that rigged. In sum, in 2017, please don’t “North Carolina” Virginia. The state you save may very well be your own.