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.
Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010
In a state where half the registered voters typically do not vote, relatively small swings in the activism of sub-groups of voters can have a big impact. In 2008, the exceptional turnout among African-American women and youth led the way to sweeping victories for Tar Heel Democrats. In 2010, Republican enthusiasm and disinterest among youth are two factors influencing the election results in North Carolina – along the multi-millions spent to reinforce both trends. By the time provisional ballots are counted, turnout in North Carolina will hit 44% (2.7 million out of the state’s 6.2 million registered voters). In 2008, turnout among registered voters hit a modern record of 70%. Put another way, more than one million voters who participated in 2008 sat out the 2010 election. A new report, cosponsored by Democracy NC, uses Census data to analyze the weak shape of civic engagement in North Carolina; that weakness reflects a deep history of enforced disenfranchisement and servitude, compounded by a new ethos of stressful selfishness. The report describes the poor performance of young voters. Our own analysis shows that voters age 18 through 25 were 10% of the Early Voters in 2008 but less than 4% of the Early Voters this year; i.e., their vote share was cut by more than half. No other sector dropped their vote share by such a large percent. (We won’t know the demographic make-up of the total vote for a many weeks.)
Monday, November 1st, 2010
The 2010 Election is here. Polls are open on Tuesday, November 2 from 6:30 AM until 7:30 PM. Click here to find out voting locations in NC by address plus directions to all polling places. Here are some other useful Election Day links you may want to use or pass on to others:
Friday, October 29th, 2010
The election of the decade is nearly over: The political party that wins majority control of the NC General Assembly will use new Census data to redraw political district lines to maximize its ability to win legislative and Congressional elections for the next decade. That’s one reason why the battles are so intense and complaints are flying. The state Democratic Party accuses the Republican Party of cheating on how it pays for campaign ads, while the Republicans claim electronic voting machines are giving their votes to Democratic candidates. Read the GOP complaint and response of State Board of Elections Director Gary Bartlett, posted on the Board’s homepage; it’s too bad the News & Observer missed so many of the points in Bartlett’s letter in its story this morning. The GOP’s complaint, which escalated today to a federal lawsuit, appears designed to spread cynicism about the voting process and reduce turnout among occasional voters; the GOP benefits this year from an election decided by the votes of a party’s most fired-up supporters. The intensity of the battle has already resulted in voters being intimidated by poll observers at One-Stop Early Voting centers. Democracy North Carolina has a one-page flyer about the rights of voters and urges anyone who sees bullying or inappropriate behavior to call the Election Protection Hot-Line (1-866-OUR-VOTE) or our office at 919-286-6000.
Thursday, October 28th, 2010
A segment on NPR today exposes a nasty example of public policy for sale to private interests. It turns out that private prison officials, along with a shadowy group nicknamed ALEC, basically wrote Arizona’s controversial new anti-immigration law as a revenue generator; they envisioned special prisons for women and children, among other things. Thirty of the 36 AZ representatives jumping on board to sponsor the legislation received campaign donations from the same prison companies. NPR is also doing an outstanding job of tracking the dominant role of money in this year’s elections; see its site for back stories. A report earlier this week says an estimated $3.5 billion will be pumped into the elections, much of it from a bewildering network of conservative special interest groups traced to two office suites, advised by Karl Rove and funded by Swift Boaters and others. A handy map of these organizations shows just how powerful and well-funded they have become since the Citizens United ruling earlier this year.
Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
Two front-page stories by the Raleigh News & Observer highlight the perspective of the forces dominating this year’s election cycle: make voting for poor people harder and the influence of big-money political donors easier. The first story describes Tea Party supporters in Raleigh harassing Chavis Park voters by writing down their names, asking them questions, challenging their ability to get assistance, etc. The harassers are following the tactics presented in a training video that a Republican Party official in Pamlico County told the State Board of Elections she helped prepare for the NC Republican Party. Some would say this is an effort to corrupt the election process. Ironically, the other story is about the stepped-up giving by mega-millionaire Art Pope to the Republican cause because he says he doesn’t like political corruption. However, he does like the new freedom the US Supreme Court granted him to use c-4 nonprofits and other vehicles to spread false information about candidates he doesn’t like. So this is the anti-corruption remedy for North Carolina? Chris Fitzsimon of NC Policy Watch gives more details on how these forces will try to undo the momentum in North Carolina for real reform.
Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
The money keeps pouring in, setting all kinds of records – in state legislative races and nationally. Conservative investors who previously shied away from sinking large amounts into elections are writing big fat checks: the buyout of American democracy is on! On the national level, many of the investors have been involved, in one way or another, in conservative politics for years; but the opportunities for direct impact through check-writing, as well as an immediate return on the investment, seem much bigger this year. Campaign Money Watch has a new report on the money pouring into Congressional elections, and the Associated Press has a good overview of what’s happening in North Carolina.
Monday, October 25th, 2010
Two websites provide background and instructions, including a video, about the Instant Runoff Voting method being used this year in three local Superior Court races and one statewide Court of Appeals election. The Court of Appeals race, which is the nation’s first use of IRV in a statewide general election, has a certain historical fascination. In 2008, a black man was at the top of every ballot in North Carolina, in the race for US President. In 2010, a black man is at the bottom of every ballot, in the NC Court of Appeals IRV contest involving 13 candidates. Both men have quite unusual names: one is Barack Obama; the other is Cressie Thigpen. In both cases, voting a “straight party” ticket would not include a vote for or against them; voters must vote in the Presidential and Court elections separately. Both men graduated from prestigious law schools, taught at other law schools, and gained prominent endorsements across race and party lines for their campaigns; Thigpen is endorsed by white Republican and Democratic former chief justices of the NC Supreme Court. Obama and Thigpen were both born in the month of August. And so on.
Friday, October 22nd, 2010
The New York Times blows a hole in the myth that the US Chamber of Commerce represents hundreds of thousands of Main Street businesses across America; in fact, only a handful of big corporations are bankrolling the lobby group and its gigantic electioneering operation. NYT researchers pierced the secrecy around the Chamber’s donors, at least enough to discover that a mere 45 corporations (Dow Chemical, Prudential, Chevron, Goldman Sachs, etc.) provided about half of the Chamber’s $140 million income in 2008. Campaign Money Watch blasted the underlying fraud of the Chamber’s portrayal of itself as a friend of economic prosperity by exposing the number of jobs exported under Chamber-supported federal policies and by calling for passage of the Fair Elections Now Act to challenge the Chamber’s political clout.
Thursday, October 21st, 2010
A hat tip to Art Pope’s Civitas Institute for providing two practical, fairly objective services without overt ideological interpretation (no doubt they’re offered this year because the GOP is promoting Early Voting, but anyone can use these tools). One service tracks the use of absentee voting; caution: counts of mail-in ballots and in-person ballots cast at Early Voting sites are combined for one total, so these figures are not just the results at One-Stop Early Voting centers. You can look up your county or follow changes in the statewide profile of who’s voting early. The information comes directly from a file that the State Board of Elections updates daily, which you can download at the Board’s ftp website. The second service is a handy link to the location of any county’s Early Voting site(s) that allows a person to map a travel plan to the site. Pretty nifty.
Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Talk about a conspiracy. The New York Times and Think Progress provide the details of an ongoing series of twice-yearly, four-day strategy sessions held by a Who’s Who of hard-line “free enterprise” champions, billionaire businessmen, front-group consultants, and Glenn Beck provocateurs – all hosted by the super-secretive Koch brothers. The end of the posting on Think Progress provides a list of the 200-plus participants in the June 2010 retreat, held in Aspen, Colorado; the list includes Art Pope and Bob Lundy of North Carolina. The meetings have been going on for several years, assembling multi-million-dollar commitments to take over Congress, stop unwanted regulation, and boost the wealth of these elites. The next meeting is in Palm Springs, California, in January, in time to set strategy for the new Congress and prepare for buying the 2012 presidency. As the invitation to the meeting says, this is not about fun in the sun; it’s about “combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it.” You’re not invited.
Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
The Washington Post reports today that a study of felony disenfranchisement laws has found that 800,000 former felons have returned to the voter rolls in the past decade thanks to a push by criminal justice advocates and civil rights groups — including Democracy North Carolina — to rewrite state laws and eliminate various voting barriers aimed at felons. In NC, ex-felons can re-register to vote once they have completed their sentences, including probation and any parole. In NC, ex-felons can re-register to vote once they have completed their sentences, including probation and any parole. Read the full article here. Unfortunately, the report incorrectly says a former felon in North Carolina “can register to vote after filing a certificate demonstrating unconditional discharge and the restoration of voting rights with the county of conviction or residence.” The truth is this: Voting rights in North Carolina are automatically restored upon completion of the sentence, no special document is needed, and the individual can register like any other citizen.
Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
Who makes up the largest group of the early-early voters this year? In 2008, black Democratic women were the largest demographic group during the first 3 days (and all 17 days) of the early voting period. Their enthusiasm and organizing paved the way for the Obama victory. By sharp contrast, white Republican men are the leading group of early voters so far this year. They’re fired up and ready to go. A Democracy North Carolina press release and county-by-county chart analyze who is showing up at the one-stop early voting centers across the state. The WRAL-TV and News 14 coverage of the report include telling quotes reflecting the spirit of the times. (PS: The numbers do not include mail-in absentee ballots.)
Sunday, October 17th, 2010
(Posting delayed due to dead computer.) With Early Voting off to a roaring start, here’s a link to an all-purpose resource for North Carolina elections that we encourage others to post on their sites: http://www.NCElectionConnection.com/. It connects you to your Early Voting sites, a view of your sample ballot, the location of your precinct polling place on Election Day, and profiles of local, state and federal candidates for your area; plus it answers questions about what to do if you’ve move recently, if you want to vote by mail, if you haven’t registered yet, if you’re a college student far from home, etc. Speaking of college students, here’s a nifty 30-second PSA/YouTube video that a group of Charlotte students working with Democracy North Carolina prepared to encourage voting among their peers.
Friday, October 15th, 2010
Ninety-seven cents of every dollar the Civitas Institute spends comes from Art Pope via the Pope Foundation, according to a new report by Facing South. So does four dollars out of every five that John Hood and the John Locke Foundation spend to promote the Art Pope brand of me-first, libertarian conservatism. This is the second of two reports by the Institute for Southern Studies’ Facing South blog; the other report described Pope’s funding of political attacks in North Carolina through a Civitas affiliate and other entities. Nationally, spending on political ads by business front groups, unions, and billionaires has more than doubled since the last mid-term election, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. The impact is a dagger to the heart of democracy, says Bill Moyers, not the blessing of free enterprise, as Mr. Pope or the Gilded Age’s Mark Hanna would have us believe.
Thursday, October 14th, 2010
The Instant Runoff Voting method will be used in three Superior Court races this year — and in a 13-candidate tussle for a seat on the NC Court of Appeals. Ironically, there’s more attention on the IRV process than on these little-known candidates. Two recent pieces include this op-ed piece by Damon Circosta of the NC Center for Voter Education and this story in Fayetteville about one of the Superior Court contests (the other two are in Buncombe and Rowan counties) and the Appeals Court race. As a part of its extensive elections coverage, the Independent Weekly has a simple guide that covers topics like “Straight Party” voting and using IRV. For a graphic overview of how IRV works and, importantly, a description of the candidates, here’s a direct link to the State Board of Elections voter guide.