Democracy North Carolina’s Executive Director Bob Hall periodically posts commentary and links of interest about one of our core issue areas. Review his posts below or click here to automatically subscribe to our Link-of-The-Day feed via email and other options.
You are welcome to submit comments to this moderated blog. Please treat others with respect, avoid partisan rhetoric, and help us provide a fact-based discussion of issues related to North Carolina’s political landscape. Thank you.
Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
Here’s an important announcement if you’re connected to a NC high school – as a student, parent, teacher, staff member or administrator. County boards of elections are gearing up to fulfill a new requirement that they conduct voter registration drives in all high schools during September, which is Citizens Awareness Month in North Carolina. Some counties do a good job, but most could use a hand from community volunteers and insiders at the high school. Now’s the time to offer to help! The registration drive provides a unique chance to educate young people about the election process and to foster a life-long commitment to civic engagement. Citizens who are 16 or 17 can preregister by checking an extra box on the registration application; the completed form will be held by the elections board until the applicant reaches the age to be fully registered. Since preregistration began in January 2010, more than 60,000 16 and 17 year olds have signed up. Last week, the State Board of Elections sent a 13-page booklet to all county boards that includes a list of ideas for registration and preregistration drives (page 5). Local planning is just getting underway; use the contact info in the booklet (page 8 ) to call your local elections board and offer to help with activities for September (or call Democracy North Carolina at 919-286-6000).
Monday, August 22nd, 2011
The NC FreeEnterprise Foundation has two entries that provide a detailed look at the 12 NC Senate members and 28 NC House members who are “double bunked” by the proposed General Assembly district maps for the 2012-2020 elections. Given how the new lines are drawn, the homes of these 40 legislators are placed in districts with a second member. If the maps clear court scrutiny, the legislator will have to choose to run against another incumbent, run for another office, move to another district or not run at all. Some members have already made up their minds, according to the useful analysis.
Monday, August 15th, 2011
A powerful new video from Brave New Films documents the Koch brothers’ takeover of the Wake County school system through Americans for Prosperity and the 2009 school board election. It reveals the links to past segregation rhetoric and the upheaval created by the Koch agenda to destroy public education, equal opportunity, diversity in schools. With so much good video and a big target on the Kochs, it leaves out lots of the story, including the crucial link to Raleigh’s own Art Pope, local patron of Americans for Prosperity, member of its national board, leading financier of NC Republicans, and key strategist in the 2009 election. As Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies says in the film, “Follow the money, you can see it, it’s real.” Dallas Woodhouse of NC Americans for Prosperity says his group didn’t directly spend money on the 2009 election, although he carefully doesn’t deny organizing support for the winners, their new plan or their allies running as candidates in this year’s important election.
Thursday, August 11th, 2011
People with only a hammer see everything as a nail. Three voters caught trying to vote twice in the 2008 presidential election are now being prosecuted by the Wake County district attorney; they were jailed with a felony charge and $10,000 bond. The NC Republican Party and other advocates for a photo ID requirement are delighted with this news, seeing it through their hammer-claw lens as stark evidence that Gov. Perdue was horribly wrong to veto House Bill 351, the photo ID bill. NC Republican chief Robin Hayes is especially happy to jab Perdue with a big lie that will no doubt be repeated over and over – perhaps with the media’s help. The lie buries this core truth: Requiring voters to show an ID would have done ABSOLUTLEY NOTHING to prevent the crime of attempting to vote twice. The alleged cheaters could show an ID when they voted at the Early Voting site, and show it again a few days later when they voted at their polling site on Election Day. They voted in their own names and did not attempt to impersonate somebody else; impersonation is the only fraud H-351 really addresses. Another truth: The current safeguards worked – none of the three successfully voted twice. Their ballots at the Early Voting sites were retrieved and not counted; the system worked, without an ID requirement! This case involves three black Democrats in the NC election Obama narrowly won; the outpouring of hostility is unfortunately predictable. More prosecutions of double voting are in the works. Voter fraud should be prosecuted – the integrity of the election system must be protected. That’s why House Bill 862 is actually a stronger, better bill than H-351. It requires voters to show an ID or attest under penalty of perjury that they are who they say they are AND it provides funds for the State Board of Elections to hire an investigator “to investigate, document, and prepare for prosecution possible evidence of voter fraud, including cases involving voter impersonation.” H-351 is not a serious hammer against fraud; it’s a political sham and those who point to this case as evidence of its value are misled or misleaders.
Tuesday, August 9th, 2011
Titan America is back in the news, winning a draft air pollution permit for its proposed cement factory near Wilmington. Citizens in southeastern NC have kept up a vigorous campaign to force the company to play fair, but Titan apparently believes the free market means its competitors should shut up and trust them to do the right thing. The Wilmington Star News says that government officials are largely going along, even though Titan has a record of making misleading statements, if not lying. The NC environmental agency says it “had to issue the draft permit, based on state law and scientific models of the potential impact,” because computer models “showed that plant emissions would not exceed health standards outside the plant’s property line.” But why trust Titan to supply correct information to go into those models? Says the newspaper: “Titan’s actions during this process speak for themselves. In an interview shortly after plans for the plant were announced, Titan officials told the Star-News Editorial Board that it would comply with the new federal standards, even though they had not yet been announced. After the stricter limits were finalized, the Portland Cement Association challenged the rules. Titan’s president is head of that association. More recently, the company filed a slander suit against two vocal critics of the proposed Castle Hayne plant in what has all the appearances of an attempt to bully opponents into silence.” [see video]
Monday, August 8th, 2011
Almost out of nowhere, a Wilmington couple jumped to the top of the list – just below Art Pope and his family – as the largest campaign donors in North Carolina’s 2010 legislative elections. Democracy North Carolina compiled the list of their $242,500 in donations to state political parties and 17 Republican legislative candidates in districts from the coast to mountains. (Many donations are still not in the State Board of Elections’s database because of staff shortages there.) The Wilmington Star News profiled Neil Carmichael (Mike) Bender and his wife Bridgett, and their business partner Jeff Petro, who kicked in another $37,000. They run several businesses, own airplanes, enjoy political access, hate taxes, and they’re ready to contribute heavily in next year’s election. But Mike doesn’t want his picture taken by the Star News. Hmmm. Meanwhile, the secret donor behind a $1 million gift funneled through a shell corporation to a super PAC promoting Mitt Romney’s presidency has been exposed: he’s Edward A. Conard, a financial wheeler-dealer in the firm where Romney once worked. Conard? Bender? Maybe they’re clues to solve the canard of who’s bending our political culture to the breaking point.
Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
A two-month investigation by NC Policy Watch reveals that a powerful state legislator has been raking in six-figure paychecks from two government-funded organizations at the same time he’s railing against government waste and spending! Payments to NC House Rules Chair Rep. Stephen LaRoque (R-Kinston) reached $195,000 a year as the head of two economic development nonprofits – the East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company. The two organizations have received $8 million in federal funds since 1997, and LaRoque has used them to loan government money to his close associates and political allies. Read all the parts of this fascinating series.
Friday, July 29th, 2011
For the redistricting junkie, FairVote has crafted a Congressional map for North Carolina that offers a completely different way to elect 13 members to Congress, using three multi-member super districts and proportional representation. It comes with an analysis of the Republican plan adopted by the NC General Assembly – “one of the nation’s most extreme partisan gerrymanders this year” – and a detailed explanation of FairVote’s alternative approach, with charts and maps. Don’t get hung up on only three districts (there could be five or more), nor the fact that the whole thing isn’t now legal for Congressional elections. Look for ideas that are useful down the line.
Thursday, July 28th, 2011
Congratulations to all those inside and outside the General Assembly whose combined work blocked the Republican attempt to override Gov. Perdue’s veto of the photo ID bill (H-351). But rather than accept defeat in a fair vote, the Republican Majority Paul Stam demonstrated his real commitment to the integrity of elections: He cast his vote with the Democrats to put himself on the winning side, then after the vote count was announced, he immediately used a parliamentary trick to put the veto override measure back on the House calendar where it can be brought up anytime for the rest of the 2011-2012 biennium session! The Fayetteville Observer nailed Stam’s “shameless fraud” in an editorial worth your read.
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