3-JUDGE PANEL RULES NC VOTER ID UNCONSTITUTIONAL DUE TO RACIAL DISCRIMINATION: Republican lawmakers in North Carolina wrote the state’s voter ID law with the intent, at least in part, to make it harder for Black residents to vote, a panel of state judges ruled on Friday. “In reaching this conclusion, we do not find that any member of the General Assembly who voted in favor of (voter ID) harbors any racial animus or hatred towards African American voters, but rather ... that the Republican majority ‘target[ed] voters who, based on race, were unlikely to vote for the majority party. Even if done for partisan ends, that constitute[s] racial discrimination.’” The ruling strikes down a voter ID law that lawmakers wrote in 2018, after voters statewide approved the general idea during the 2018 elections, on a ballot referendum for a constitutional amendment. That amendment passed with over 55% of the vote.
REPRESENTATIVE VERLA INSKO IS RETIRING AFTER THIS TERM: The longest-serving Democrat in the North Carolina General Assembly will retire after her current term expires. State Rep. Verla Insko, who has represented Orange County since 1997, announced her decision Wednesday. Her term ends Dec. 31, 2022. “It has just been an enormously gratifying career,” Insko said during a speech at the end of the House’s floor session Wednesday. “... I’ve been proud of actually being able to make a contribution to the difference that we make for people.” Insko, 85, has been a consistent, liberal voice on expanding health care access and reforming mental health services. The Orange County representative also was a top budget writer on health issues when Democrats controlled the House. They don't come any better than Verla. She's that rare elected official who actually listens to people, even those who can't vote for her (like me). Thank you for your service and guidance, which will be sorely missed.
COVID IS HITTING NC'S PEOPLE OF COLOR EXCEPTIONALLY HARD: Nearly 7,300 new coronavirus infections are reported a day in North Carolina, which is up 40 percent from a month ago. But the cases are hitting some groups harder than others. According to data from the state Department of Health and Human Services, Black and Latino residents are disproportionately affected by the virus. Latino residents, for example, have experienced 15,586 cases per capita, which is 82 percent more than the 8,553 cases per capita among white residents, according to DHHS data. Cases per capita among Black and Native American residents are 11 percent and 10 percent higher, respectively, than the rate for whites. "I think it's a combination of the multi-generational households [and] a lack of access to health care prior to the pandemic," said Donald Hughes, program coordinator for We Are Ready for Life, a Durham nonprofit focused on improving the quality of life and economic opportunities in underserved communities. "[It's] created a situation where there are a lot of pre-existing conditions that are exacerbated by COVID-19, which ultimately led to worse health outcomes for Black and brown communities," Hughes said.
PUBLIC COMMENTS ON REDISTRICTING FOCUS ON NOT BREAKING UP COMMUNITIES: Most speakers asked legislators to draw “compact” districts that keep people in the same areas in the same districts instead of using complex, sprawling shapes to minimize the impact of Democrats and minority voters. “Do not dilute the voting power of Blacks and other communities of color,” said east Burlington resident Irving Zavaleta-Jimenez. Some speakers, like Phyllis Demko, represented organizations – in her case the League of Women Voters of North Carolina. She criticized the committee for holding so few hearings, having them in the afternoons when many working people can’t come and doing little to publicize them. “It would seem from all these elements,” Demko said, “that you are not really interested in what the public has to say.” Many speakers wanted a chance to check lawmakers' work, asking for more hearings after the legislature drafts the maps but before it votes on them. That last part is critical. It takes time to evaluate maps and their boundaries to determine if packing and cracking was used, and then specific and substantive complaints can be lodged.
NATIONAL GUARD MONITORING PRO-TRUMP RALLY TODAY WILL BE UNARMED: The U.S. Capitol Police chief formally asked for 100 armed National Guard members to be on standby for a rally this Saturday at the Capitol in case it turns violent, but he withdrew the request at the urging of a top Senate security official who said he had not followed protocol. Days later, Chief J. Thomas Manger instead asked for unarmed Guard members after conferring with the official, Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson and the Pentagon, according to internal correspondence and three people familiar with the discussions. The Guard members would be armed only with batons and would be accompanied by armed police. On Friday morning, the Defense Department approved the request for support, saying unarmed soldiers will be stationed at the D.C. Armory and will deploy only if necessary. It’s highly unusual for armed National Guard members to respond to protests, and strict rules must be followed in such cases. In a statement, Defense Department spokesman Chris Mitchell said soldiers on Saturday would serve only in a support capacity “to help protect the U.S. Capitol Building and Congressional Office buildings by manning building entry points and verifying credentials of individuals seeking access to the building.” Congress will not be in session, so I don't expect much trouble today. But with these lunatics, you never know.