STATE NEWS BRIEFS FOR 11-28-19
CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE FILING DELAYED BY COURT
[RALEIGH] Until a Wake Superior Court three-judge panel decides that new congressional redistricting maps are constitutional and ready to be used in the upcoming 2020 elections, candidates for Congress will not be allowed to file on December 2nd, the beginning of the filing period for the March 2020 primaries. State lawmakers recently completed and approved new congressional maps, only to have them immediately challenged by Democrats in court as remaining partisan gerrymanders. No word on when the court will render a final decision on the maps.
ELON POLL SAYS MOST NORTH CAROLINIANS WANT CONFEDERATE STATUES TO STAY UP
[PITTSBORO] In the aftermath of the Confederate statue in Pittsboro being taken down in Chatham County, an Elon University poll shows that a majority of North Carolinians surveyed are in favor of monuments to the Confederacy remaining up on public property, despite strong opinions that they represent white supremacy. Sixty-five ph ercent of respondents approve of the statues staying out, as opposed to just 35% wanting them taken down. Seventy-three percent, however, said that they want the statues to remain with added plaques to provide historical context.
FEMALE PRISON GUARD SUES OVER PAY DISCRIMINATION
[WHITEVILLE] A retired female prison guard has sued the NC Dept. of Correction, claiming that she was paid less than two male colleagues, even though they were all at the same level. Captain Melissa Evans retired from the Columbus Correctional Institute last April after almost 30 years, but claims she made $4,000 to $5,000 less annually than two male counterparts, according to her suit in federal court. A spokesman for the medium-security prison said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation.
REP. ALMA ADAMS (D-NC-12)
HURTS NC HBCU FUNDING
By Cash Michaels
For N.C. A&T University, the loss is $1,621,622.00.
NC Central University is also losing, to the tune of $1,358,898.00
And Shaw University in Raleigh can certainly use the $809,352.00 it is missing out of.
In all, ten historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in North Carolina, not to mention many more across the country, will not see a penny of federal funding they are supposed to receive from the Future Act - a federal law, established in 2008, which reauthorizes “…$255 million in critical funding for “Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) for the next two years, including $85 million for HBCUs,” according to Rep. Alma Adam’s (D-NC-12) office.
“This legislation provides HBCUs, tribal Colleges, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and others funding to strengthen STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs, improve infrastructure and equip campuses with the technology they need to prepare students for 21st century jobs,” Rep. Adams’ office continued.
As co-chair of the Congressional Bi-partisan HBCU Caucus, alumna of NC A &T University, and former employee at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro for forty years, it was expected that Adams would be the lead sponsor of key legislation supportive of HBCUs, especially in North Carolina.
And indeed, her reauthorization of the Future Act passed the US House in September with bipartisan support just weeks before the Sept. 30th deadline, and was sent to the U.S. Senate for final approval before becoming law.
But that’s where the legislation stalled, when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) chairman of the Senate Education Committee, stopped it from proceeding, saying that he preferred “a long-term solution,” as opposed to a reauthorization. Beyond Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), no other Senate Republicans were interested in passing the measure.
Many saw Sen. Alexander’s move as a way to gain leverage for issues he wants addressed before passage, and have asked him to reconsider in light of the damage the loss of funding would do for all 102 HBCUs across the nation.
“We should pass the bipartisan Future Act instead of playing politics with valuable and under-resourced institutions,” said ranking committee member Sen. Patty Murray (D- Wash) on the Senate floor.
Rep. Adams, who cosponsored the House bill with North Carolina Republican colleague Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro, was also not pleased.
“It is shocking and illogical that Sen. Alexander has refused to do his job and pass this vital legislation, critical for the success of HBCUs and students of color,” Rep. Adams said in a statement, adding, “This is devastating.”
The HBCUs desperately needing the funding, also weighed in.
North Carolina Central University supports the immediate passage of the Future Act that has provided critical to our university and nearly all Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs),” said Dr. Michael D. Page, Director of External Affairs and Government Relations at NCCU.
ATTY. DARYL ATKINSON
LAWSUIT TO OVERTURN LAW THAT
STOPS EX-FELONS FROM VOTING
By Cash Michaels
You unfortunately committed a felon when you were young, and have served your time.
But according to North Carolina law, as long as you are still legally classified as a felon due to probation or parole, even after you’ve served your sentence and have been released from prison, you do not have the right to vote.
For over 70,000 formerly incarcerated North Carolinians, this is their reality. They say the law mandating their citizenship disenfranchisement is unfair and unconstitutional, and last week, a lawsuit was filed to have that 1971 measure overturned.
“This fight is deeply personal to me,” Dennis Gaddy, an ex-felon and executive director of Community Success Initiative (CSI), a nonprofit organization that works with the formerly incarcerated to help them re-enter society, told reporters last week during a press conference announcing the lawsuit.
“When North Carolina excluded from it’s democracy people with past convictions living in a community, working and contributing to society, but still under probation and parole, [the state] excluded me and the people I devote my life to serving,” Gaddy, who is also lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, continued.
“For seven years, under the statute we challenge today, I lost that sacred right, even after I fully returned to society,” Gaddy added. “We serve as lead plaintiff here today to end this unconstitutional policy and bring a sense of hope to those North Carolinians who are seeking to reintegrate into our communities and society against great odds.”
CSI, along with the NC NAACP and Justice Served NC, another nonprofit advocacy group, filed the suit November 20th in Wake Superior Court against Republican legislative leaders and the State Board of Elections, “…seeking to re-enfranchise approximately 70,000 North Carolinians previously convicted of felonies who have had their right to vote taken away under an unconstitutional probation or post-release disenfranchisement law,” according to Forward Justice, a non-profit civil rights law firm in Durham.
“As the plaintiffs explain in their lawsuit, North Carolina General Statute § 13-1 violates at least four guarantees of the North Carolina Constitution: the Free Elections Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, the Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly Clauses, and the Ban on Property Qualifications Clause. The plaintiffs ask the court to enjoin, or prohibit, the statute’s restriction on North Carolinians currently under state supervision from registering and exercising their right to vote.”
Plaintiffs allege that the statute places a restriction on the electorate’s ability to vote in North Carolina based on impermissible race and class-based classifications.
“The importance of the right to vote cannot be overstated,” explained Diana Powell, Executive Director of Justice Served, “Quite simply, the vote is our voice in our own lives. It gives us a say over the direction of our elected officials and the policies that govern our daily experience. This right should not be conditioned on paying fees, restitution and fines, or other terms of probation and parole, while our neighbors and family members with past convictions are otherwise actively participating and contributing in our community, trying to raise children and grandchildren, trying to live lives that are healthy, and safe. Every week, I work with people who are in this situation – they deserve and they need a say in their own life and this lawsuit is a necessary step in our work to ensure that reality.”
“It is time for a new day in North Carolina, where we say no more to this racist disenfranchisement policy that is not only unconstitutional in its origins and impact, but that dishonors our democratic commitment to ensuring that North Carolina elections reflect the will of the people,” said Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the NC NAACP .
“The struggle over who has access to the right to vote has always been a fight over who is included in the ‘we’ of ‘we the people’,” explained attorney Daryl Atkinson, co-Director of Forward Justice. “Our Constitution requires that the state of North Carolina recognize that people living in our communities, regardless of past felony conviction, are a part of that ‘we’ and the votes and basic citizenship of more than 70,000 North Carolinians cannot be denied. As we seek an expedited review of our claims and full relief for those injured under this unconstitutional scheme, we are proud to represent these courageous plaintiffs, who in one voice are telling the state today that the time of illegal disenfranchisement based on conviction status is over in North Carolina.”