STATE NEWS BRIEFS FOR 10-17-18
JUDGES: GOP-DEVISED STATE ELECTIONS BOARD “UNCONSTITUTIONAL”
[RALEIGH] The NC Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, statutorily created by the Republican-led NC General Assembly in 2017 and 2018, was unconstitutionally created, a three-judge panel has ruled. However, the board may stay in place until after the 2018 midterm elections. The legislature originally passed a law in 2016 o counter the fact that Gov. Cooper, Democrat, had just been elected. That law essentially took away his power of appointment to the state election boards. After that was challenged in court, GOP lawmakers passed two more laws to cut the number of board members to eight, but again, the courts say they had no right to do that. The elections board, by state Constitution, always allowed the party of the governor in power to have the majority of seats on both the state and county election boards.
However, one of the proposed constitutional amendments currently on North Carolina ballots would codify the GOP plan for an eight-member board. If that amendment passes, that will trump the court ruling.
GOV. COOPER SIGNS BILL FOR $800 MILLION IN HURRICANE FLORENCE RELIEF
[RALEIGH] Gov. Roy Cooper Tuesday, signed legislation that will provide $800 million in relief aid for those counties affected by Hurricane Florence in September. That is in addition to the $56 million that was appropriated immediately after the storm struck. Homes and businesses throughout eastern and coastal North Carolina were destroyed by massive flooding and strong winds that blew down trees.
"I appreciate legislators responding quickly and taking this initial step to help North Carolinians recover from this devastating storm, particularly in the areas of education and the federal match," Gov. Cooper said in a statement. "However, we must continue to work together to provide more for affordable housing and farmers as well as to make real investments to ensure clean water and to lessen the impacts of future storms on our homes, roads, businesses and water infrastructure."
NCNAACP ASKS STATE BOE FOR “EMERGENCY” ACTION IN IMPACTED COUNTIES
[RALEIGH] The NCNAACP has asked Chairman Andy Penry and Executive Director Kim Strach of the NC State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, to immediately act in those counties negatively affected by Hurricane Florence to ensure that voters there are able to cast their ballots now that the early voting period has begun.
“These counties are home to a disproportionate number of African-American voters and to some of the highest numbers of North Carolinians living below the poverty line, Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the NCNAACP wrote in an Oct. 16thletter.“In the aftermath of this historic storm, North Carolinians in those counties are still struggling to put their lives back together and are exceptionally vulnerable to being disenfranchised “
Spearman requested that absentee ballots be allowed, and mobile early voting labs be deployed to hard-hit areas. “With swift action by the State Board of Elections, we can ensure that disenfranchisement will not be among the many hardships that North Carolinians will have to face in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence,” he concluded.
NEW ANALYSIS FINDS VOTER
ID AMENDMENT “TOO COSTLY”
By Cash Michaels
According to a new analysis of the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment which is on the North Carolina ballot now during early voting (Oct. 17ththru Nov. 3rd), and on Election Day, Nov. 6th, if passed by state voters by referendum, would not only be “…harmful to voters working for low incomes and poor voters of all races, while specifically targeting Black and Latino voters,” but unnecessarily cost all North Carolina taxpayers, because “… state and county governments have to spend at least $12 million on staffing polling sites, providing identification cards, and conducting the necessary voter education and outreach to ensure people are aware of the requirement.”
That analysis is according to Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of the N.C. Budget and Tax Center – a division of the NC Justice Center, a nonprofit progressive think tank which publishes NC Policy Watch, an online progressive newspaper.
Sirota makes the point that the millions of dollars that the so-called “voter integrity” amendment would cost if implemented, would be diverted from other critical state and local programs, like investing in public schools, disaster recovery and funding search and rescue efforts, like the operations recently undertaken in the aftermath of hurricanes Florence and Michael.
“Such diversion of resources — that are now more limited in our state because of successive tax cuts for the rich and big companies — in order to block participation in the democratic process for some puts our state’s economic well-being at risk,” writes Sirota in her analysis Monday titled “Proposed Amendment requiring a voter ID is unnecessary and too costly.”
Sirota continued, “People across the state — but particularly in rural communities and voters of color — will face high costs in obtaining a photo identification, even if the state provides an identification card without a fee. (It isn’t even clear in the ballot language that they will do that much.) The costs alone of traveling, wait times, and acquiring supporting documents are enough to detract from family priorities like buying groceries, providing quality child care, or paying utility bills. Its impacts will ripple through communities in the near term.”
Sirota concludes, “Every eligible voter should be able to participate in the democratic process with a vote and not be blocked because of cost.”
Republican lawmakers and their conservative supporters say the proposed constitutional amendment to establish voter ID would ensure that the electoral process in North Carolina would be protected, but the amendment never spells out how:
Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person. FOR or AGAINST.
That’s all the voter’s ballot says. There is no explanation of exactly what kind of photo ID will be accepted and not accepted (will state-issued college IDs b accepted?).
Republican state lawmakers say if the amendment is ratified by North Carolina voters, they will call a Special November Sessions to come back, and decide all of the details they failed to lay out previously.
The NCNAACP counters that passage of the voter ID amendment before any legislation emanating from can be examined and debated, would be giving what would amount to a “blank check” to the very party that has been proven in the past to impose voter suppression and illegal racial gerrymandering of voting districts, only to be struck down in the courts.
The civil rights group sued in court to stop the amendment, but failed. They are now actively campaigning against it.
WHY YOU SHOULD VOTE “NO” ON ALL SIX AMENDMENTS
You know, you have to give the Republican majority, and particularly the GOP legislative leadership in the NC General Assembly, credit.
They pretty much know that the good people of North Carolina have had enough of their legislative double-dealing, and sinister attempts at voter oppression aimed at African-Americans, so they’ve come up with a plan.
And it’s a real doozy!
Realizing that they might not still be in power come 2019, the GOP has designed six broadly worded constitutional amendments that, if passed, would be almost impossible to remove.
You see, statutory laws are always amended, or even stricken from the books. All it takes is a simple majority vote of both the state House and Senate.
But a constitutional amendment is a special animal. The state constitution, according to Ballotpedia, is the “highest legal document for the state.” It is our governing document, creating the structure and function of North Carolina governance.
In short, it’s our state “bible.”
Thus, it takes much more than a simple up-or-down vote to change anything per the state constitution. At least 60% of all the members of both the House and Senate have to put a submitted amendment to a statewide vote, which is why we’ve never seen six amendments proposed in one year before.
One or two, yes, but definitely NOT six.
But just because a state constitutional amendment is ludicrous on its face, doesn’t necessarily mean that lawmakers can easily remove it.
For example, and we didn’t know this until we researched it, Section Four of Article VI of the 1868 North Carolina Constitution states that a person must be literate in the English language before registering to vote. The provision was used to deny African-Americans the right to vote then, and guess what - it’s STILL in the state Constitution today.
Obviously, it is not being enforced today, but it remains because several attempts to remove it have always fallen short.
Republicans know how difficult it is to remove anything from the state Constitution, which brings us back to six ridiculous constitutional amendments they’ve put forth on a ballot referendum for the November 6thelections.
If Republicans can get citizens to vote “for” these six proposed amendments, then all the GOP has to do is reconvene in Special Session right after the election, and pass laws based on the broad language of the amendments on the ballots – language so broad that Democrats claim is “misleading”, allowing Republicans can get away with whatever, because voters will have voted to allow them to.
For example, let’s look at the proposed ballot amendment most civil rights activists, especially the NCNAACP, are concerned with – Constitutional amendment to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person. FOR or AGAINST.
THAT’S IT! NO DETAILS! Republicans say if voters pass this, they’ll fill in all the details later (like during that Special November Session they’re planning for). Dangerous!
Number two - Constitutional amendment to reduce the income tax rate in North Carolina to a maximum allowable rate of seven percent (7%).FOR or AGAINST.
No one likes high taxes, but by that same token, no one wants to see state government go broke and not fulfill the basic needs of its citizens. Capping the income tax rate to just 7% constitutionally is a gift to the rich. But how many hurricanes and other disasters will it take to convince Republican lawmakers (since they’ve been in charge since 2011) that when disaster strikes, or the economy goes bad costing us jobs, or we fail to invest in our public schools, or cut services to our poor, all because we deliberately fiscally handcuffed ourselves so that no more revenue can come in when needed?
Setting the income tax rate at 7% means even if Democrats do take over in 2019, they CAN’T change it by themselves. Thus, it never gets changed.
Third proposed amendment – taking the power to fill judicial vacancies away from the governor, and give that power primarily to state lawmakers. Why? So that they can handpick partisan judges who will rule their way, NOT according to the law or justice. And don’t let the ballot language fool you. They may involve the governor in the process, but they have the last word!
Fourth - Constitutional amendment to establish an eight-member Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement in the Constitution to administer ethics and elections law. FOR or AGAINST.
Another “let’s weaken the governor even more” attempt, taking his power to appoint members away, and eliminating the ninth member position (an unaffiliated member), and thus, allowing for a stalemate vote more times than not when it comes to election issues.
The fifth and sixth proposed Constitutional amendments are designed to arouse conservatives into believing that some basic state’s rights are being trampled on, or are at risk, when in fact, they’re not.
The fifth proposed amendment - Constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime; to establish certain absolute basic rights for victims; and to ensure the enforcement of these rights. FOR or AGAINST.
For starters, North Carolina is replete with laws on the books that adequately protect the rights of crime victims. Ever hear of North Carolina’s “Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights?”
From the NC Attorney General’s Office () – “Under this law, victims have the right to be notified of the dates and times of court proceedings and the status of appeals. Victims also get priority rights in restitution and get the right to be heard.”
So why is the GOP trying to make you believe that you’d be buck naked for rights if you become the victim of a crime in North Carolina?
Because if they scare you enough, you’ll come running to the polls on Election Day, and may also vote for all of their other nonsensical, misleading proposed constitutional amendments.
And finally (we’ve saved the best for last), Number Six - Constitutional amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.
Now seriously…when was the last time you heard of ANYONE seeking to outlaw your right to hunt or fish in North Carolina? Really?
And yet, just because the Republicans are saying so, there are those who will swear by it, and come out to the polls in droves, to stop those “ornery liberals from takin’ away my right to catch bass and shoot rabbits!”
Again, why this silly, worthless amendment? Because if the GOP scare conservatives enough, they’ll come running to the polls on Election Day, and may also vote for all of their other nonsensical, misleading proposed constitutional amendments.
It is a slick way of codifying what Republicans want, even when they’re out of power – suppress the black vote; assure the rich that their taxes will ALWAYS remain low; grab control of the judiciary; and limit or deny the governor his constitutional power of appointing to boards and commissions. Those are the main agenda items on the ballot for the Republican legislative leadership.
The Black Newspaper publishers of this state, and this Black Newspaper, say NIX ALL SIX! Vote AGAINST on the ballot for ALL six! Tell your friends, family and neighbors! NO on ALL SIX AMENDMENTS!
Early voting has begun between now, and Saturday, Nov. 3rd. Tuesday, Nov. 6th, is Election Day! VOTE! This election is too important not to!
Now that early voting has begun in North Carolina (now through Saturday, Nov. 3rd), voters can finally be heard through the ballot box in their choices for public office.
When it comes to judicial candidates, beside their local choices, voters statewide are considering who will fill one state Supreme Court seat, and three NC Court of Appeals seats.
This newspaper has researched those judicial candidates thoroughly, and will now share our endorsements with you. Whether you agree with our endorsements or not, we strongly urge you NOT to sit this critical midterm election out.
Make sure you VOTE either during the early voting period, or on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6th.
FOR NC SUPREME COURT:
As a distinguished civil rights attorney for 30 years, Anita Earls has repeatedly been on the front lines of major litigation affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of African-Americans across North Carolina. Whether it was fighting voter suppression efforts by the Republican-led NC General Assembly, or advocating for the rights of economically disadvantaged citizens, attorney Earls has been an unyielding force for justice.
As founder of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Earls has made the upholding of hard-fought-for civil rights the hallmark of her impressive legal career.
Clearly, a NC Associate Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls would maintain that standard in considering cases that deserve the judgement of someone committed to fairnss and equality.
Ms. Earls served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights with the US Justice Dept. during the Clinton Administration. Before that, she was. Civil rights attorney with Ferguson, Stein, and Sumter Law Firm in Charlotte. Earls also served as director of the Voting Rights project for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Former US Attorney General Eric Holder has endorsed Anita Earls for the NC Supreme Court, saying, ““She will be a great Justice for the North Carolina Supreme Court. This is a state that has a lot of problems, a lot of issues that need to be dealt with and I’m confident that if Anita becomes the next Supreme Court Justice in this great state that she will deal with those problems in a way that is appropriate, in a way that is not partisan, in a way that is fair and will not be a person beholden to the special interests, but focus on the needs of the people who she will be elected to serve.”
FOR NC COURT OF APPEALS:
If endorsements are to be believed, then NC Appellate Court Judge John Arrowwood has impressed the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg; the North Carolina Association of Educators; Equality North Carolina; the AFL-CIO; and the NC National Organization for Women Political Action Committee, just to name a few. Judge Arrowood was appointed by Governor Roy Cooper to serve on the NC Court of Appeals in 2017, and is vying now to be elected to a full term. He previously served on the Appellate Court from 2007 to 2008. Previous to that, Arrowood served as a Special Superior Court judge,
Judge Arrowood says, “
. She has earned my enthusiastic endorsement.”
Attorney Toby Hampson is another candidate for NC Court of Appeals that’s considered one of the best there is. Hampson was named one of the Top 100 Super Lawyers in North Carolina (2015, 2017, 2018) by Super Lawyer Magazine. Top rated Appellate Attorney by North Carolina Super Lawyers, recognized in Appellate Practice (2014-2018), and as a “Rising Star” (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013); Certified as a Specialist in Appellate Practice by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Among other highlights.
One of the NC Appellate Court judges Toby clerked for was Wanda Bryant. Today he is a partner at the Raleigh law firm of Wyrick, Robbins, Yates and Ponton, where he leads the firm’s Appellate Practice Division. He also serves on the North Carolina State Bar Association Appellate Rules Committee.