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, December 7th, 2011
Citizens in Rowan County gave their county commissioners an earful for wasting time with a resolution calling for photo IDs in local elections. The town council in nearby East Spencer echoed the dissent by adopting a resolution that said, the “Voter ID bill would cause more problems with widespread voter disenfranchisement than it could possibly solve.” Yesterday in Kinston, the Lenoir County Commissioners tabled a resolution calling for photo IDs (“I don’t think it’s right to take up our time, discussing and fussing over this issue,” said one board member), but commissioners in Montgomery, Stanly and Union counties have adopted pro-ID resolutions recently. On the other side of the nation, the city council of Los Angeles adopted a resolution calling for federal and state action to amend the US Constitution to clarify that corporations are not “persons” with basic rights such as Free Speech. The jubilation rippled across the nation, but an unusual holiday chorus in New Hampshire offers a different perspective on corporations in this YouTube video.
Monday, December 5th, 2011
You are going to hear more about this throughout the next year: growing consensus among reformers that an amendment is needed to the US Constitution to affirm the rights of real people over inert objects, e.g., corporations. John Bonifaz, a wizard on the subject provides this op-ed column with some of the context. The Occupiers already have identified Citizens United and corporate political spending as enemies of the 99%. Polling also shows broad support . . . but an amendment is obviously a difficult, multi-year campaign. Meanwhile, related to another Democracy NC issue, here’s another story of an elderly citizen, this time a white woman in the North, who is being told to pay up for a birth certificate and court papers in order to vote. The NAACP and Legal Defense Fund issued a report today on the scope and damage of the voter ID mania that spread across the nation this year. The evidence of people being barred from voting may eventually make the US Supreme Court revisit its pro-ID decision in the landmark Indiana case – but the delay and disenfranchisement are inexcusable.
Thursday, December 1st, 2011
As mentioned a few days ago, county commissioners in several counties have adopted resolutions asking for authority from the General Assembly to impose a voter ID requirement in their local elections. Now comes word that the NC Attorney General’s office that such an approach would run into constitutional problems for a number of reasons. NC Policy Watch posted the AG’s letter and some data from Democracy North Carolina. The letter from the AG to Gov. Perdue’s attorney says the constitution only permits the General Assembly to adopt “general” (i.e., statewide) laws regarding the registration of voters for election; local bills are not allowed. Different requirements in different jurisdictions would also violate the equal protection clause of the US and state constitutions. In addition, circumvention of the governor’s veto with a series of local ID bills is prohibited by the NC constitution. It’s hard to know if this advice will slow the Republican/Civitas effort to pass more local resolutions, but it helps blow a hole in the strategy. Democracy NC’s numbers highlight the blinders worn by local and state ID advocates; they don’t see a problem because white men with property (e.g., 26 of 27 commissioners who voted for resolutions) invariably have a photo ID. But go into poor communities and the picture is different. In fact, 15 of the 25 counties with the highest percent of voters lacking a NC photo ID are also among the 25 counties with the highest rate of poverty; and 13 of the 25 counties with the lowest percent of voters lacking a NC photo ID are among the 25 counties with the lowest rate of poverty. These correlations become even stronger when the county’s racial and rural make-up are factored in.
Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
Wouldn’t it nice to have a glossary of political terms like “push polling” and “front loading”? Well, leave it to the BBC to create one for the United States political landscape. Learn the difference between hard money and soft money, a Super PAC and Super Tuesday, Medicare and Medicaid, blue dogs and red states. . . A host of terms, from “air war” to “wedge issue.”
Monday, November 28th, 2011
Three individuals on the inside of Bev Perdue’s 2008 gubernatorial campaign were indicted today – not by the feds but by a Wake County grand jury. According to the News & Observer, the indictments allege that a top fundraiser for candidate Perdue “schemed to pay a staffer $32,000 for work that was kept off the books in violation of state election laws.” The felony charges result from a year-plus investigation into the campaign’s handing of finances, including hiding in-kind donations of airplane flights and other donations that would put the donor over contribution limits. The charges include obstructing justice and failure to report campaign finances. As the N&O report continues: “Earlier this year a retired state magistrate was charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to hide an illegal campaign flight. Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has said that Perdue, a former lieutenant governor and state lawmaker, is not a target of the probe, but today’s indictment reached into the campaign’s inner circle. ‘The conduct of the governor has not been an issue, nor any other elected official,’ Willoughby said. ‘She cooperated in the investigation, was interviewed. We asked her not to talk about the facts of the case. We thought it might be inappropriate, and there might be additional charges.’” The Associated Press story is here, and the brief indictments for each charge are here.
Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
The effort to impose a hard-line ID requirement on voters has moved to the county level in North Carolina. In the last few weeks, Republican majorities on four County Commissions have adopted resolutions asking the General Assembly for authority to make voters show a government photo ID in their local elections. All 22 white Republican Commissioners in these four counties – Gaston, Davidson, Craven, and Rowan – voted for the resolutions, while the 3 Democrats opposed them. The racial and partisan divisions in the photo ID debate are hard to miss: A black voter in these counties is twice as likely as a white voter to not have a current NC photo ID, according to an analysis by the State Board of Elections. Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed the state photo ID bill (H-351) and another override attempt will likely happen, although probably not in the brief session scheduled after Thanksgiving. But legislators are expected to introduce other bills affecting elections, as well as “local bills” to authorize local governments to impose the ID barrier. Former NC Chief Justice Burley Mitchell says that even if legislators call it a “local bill,” changing voting requirements is a state action, protected by the state constitution, so a “local bill” would trigger a possible veto and lawsuit. There are many reasons to not waste tax money on producing or policing photo IDs or creating barriers that harm certain voters much more than others. A commissioner in Columbus County, where the resolution was tabled, got it right: “I would think that our legislators would have a more pressing matter,” he said. “I think they can be looking at job bills as opposed to voter ID bills.”
Friday, November 18th, 2011
Here are stories about two ways to disenfranchise voters: One, gut the Voting Rights Act and enact voter suppression measures that especially handicap a key constituency of your opponent’s political party. Noted constitutional scholar Richard Hasen has this op-ed in the New York Times about what should be done. Two, draw the new district lines after the Census so you concede some seats to your opponents, by packing their supporters in those districts, and you wind up with more seats that are safe for your party. Lots of voters caught in the middle are rendered irrelevant. CNN has a special on gerrymandering that includes a segment about North Carolina, set for broadcast on Sunday.
Thursday, November 17th, 2011
What can those new Super PACs do with their money. Stephen Colbert’s ad with presidential candidate Buddy Roemer gives you the clue. Meanwhile, Larry Lessig of Rootstrikers is joining with Dylan Ratigan’s “Get Money Out” to create a new organization to work against special-interest control of government: United Republic. Lessig also has a new book out about the corrupting culture of dependency that dominates Congress. As one reviewer said, “If anything unites the tea party and the Occupy Wall Street protesters, surely it is the sense that the system is rigged in favor of big shots in Washington and against little guys back home. Money is at the heart of it.”
Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
Chris Fitzsimon of NC Policy Watch recently interviewed Bob Hall, our executive director, for his radio show. Their brief audio conversation amounts to a quick tour through Democracy NC’s hot topics: Duke Energy buying an inside track for its rate hike and merger, the dirt you find when you dig into piles of special-interest money, election disasters on the horizon, and more. Meanwhile, Progress NC recently honored Hall and Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies for their investigative research into Art Pope’s empire that became the basis for the New Yorker’s expose of Pope. Your support of Democracy NC, through your activism and donations, makes all our work possible. PS: An invitation to donate may be arriving in the mail soon! THANKS!
Friday, November 11th, 2011
Following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, the Federal Election Commission relaxed more of its rules to regulate political spending. Wealthy individuals and trade groups, as well as corporations and unions, now have a wide variety of ways to exert even more influence over an election’s outcome. The New York Times boils the campaign finance rules down to a clever interactive guide for the 9 ways to invest $25 to $10,000,000 in a political campaign, with various degrees of privacy and impact. The Supreme Court majority essentially says all these ways to spend money are expressions of your right to “free speech,” protected by the First Amendment. Here’s a clear video explanation of why controlling undue corporate domination of elections will likely require changing the U.S. Constitution and the Court’s view of the First Amendment. A group of Senators has introduced an amendment that is less sweeping but aims to restore society’s ability to regulate “free speech” that is really paid electioneering.
Wednesday, November 9th, 2011
Three results from yesterday’s elections: (1) Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce, a staunch opponent of the state’s successful Clean Elections program, was defeated on Tuesday by a political newcomer in a recall election. Pearce is the author of Arizona’s notorious anti-immigration law. He was also tainted by a corruption scandal involving tens of thousands of dollars worth of trips and freebies connected with the Fiesta Bowl. (2) In Maine, voters overrode the conservative legislature’s decision to eliminate Election Day Registration, which allows eligible citizens to register and vote on Election Day. The program, in place since 1973, has helped Maine rank among the top two or three states for voter turnout for years. Angry at the legislature’s vote to kill EDR, a progressive coalition gained the necessary signatures, put the issue on the ballot, and won by a 60% to 40% margin. (3) On the other hand, Mississippi passed a referendum by a similar margin to require a photo ID for voters, with the promise of free IDs and backup measures to avoid disenfranchising eligible citizens. The state NAACP, ACLU and others are waiting to see how the state intends to implement the requirement before immediately challenging the proposal through the judicial system.
Tuesday, November 8th, 2011
What does it mean to have elections about ideas and people instead of big money and mud? Read this great story of the nation’s pioneering Clean Elections program after a decade in action. Candidates for the state legislature in Maine have a real alternative to the private money chase that turns well-meaning lawmakers into professional hucksters. The program has paid off with better legislation for consumers, children, the environment, workers, the uninsured – the 99%. It’s now facing new challenges from the current Supreme Court’s hostility to protect free elections from the tyranny of paid speech – check it out. We face the same threats in North Carolina.
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011
Democracy North Carolina will join three other nonpartisan organizations in filing a lawsuit in state court on Friday that challenges the constitutionality of the new redistricting plans. Late yesterday, the US Department of Justice said it would not object to the plans, using a relatively narrow set of criteria to “preclear” the maps in the 40 counties covered by the Voting Rights Act. But there are additional issues and reasons why the plans can and should be contested. To begin with, the Republican map-makers have unnecessarily carved up 563 precincts with two million adults into over 1,400 sections that are placed into different legislative districts, which will confuse and complicate every aspect of the election process. And here’s the galling factoid: Your chances of living in one of these split precincts is 50% higher if you are black rather than white. You think that’s an accident? Speaking of impediments to voting rights, we’re pleased that the Raleigh News & Observer published our op-ed column about the “campaign to make it harder to vote.” For less print and more song, check out this video that explains the redistricting process from ProPublica.