Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


DOES THE NC GOVERNOR STILL HAVE ANY POWER? NOT IF THE LEGISLATURE HAS ITS WAY: “We’re strongly urging all North Carolinians to reject this backdoor effort that would lead to manipulation and cronyism in an institution that must remain fair, independent and impartial.” As McCoy noted, the amendment could lead to court packing to shift the balance of the court. Democrats have a 4-3 majority on the N.C. Supreme Court. If that holds after the November election, Republicans could add two seats with candidates named by the legislature. Republicans have denied they have any such plan but that would be consistent with their previous actions, including cutting three seats on the N.C. Court of Appeals to reduce Gov. Cooper’s chances of making appointments to the second-highest court. Republican legislators say the constitutional amendment is needed to take the politics out of judicial appointments. Excuse us if we —and the former governors and chief justices — are skeptical of their motives. This constitutional amendment would make any flaws in the current system worse. It should be rejected.

HURRICANES PROMPT FRANK TALK ON SEA LEVEL RISE, ECONOMIC FAIRNESS: Anyone familiar with coastal North Carolina knows that there is a narrow band of wealth right along the coast adjacent to a wider band of poverty stretching from Virginia to South Carolina. It was popular a few years ago to talk about 2 North Carolinas. That recognition seems to have slipped from our consciousness. The aftermath of these two recent storms should bring it back to the forefront. This wide band of poverty is where the most destruction as well as the slowest recovery occurred. The people living in that area often build cheaper homes in flood plains and don’t buy flood insurance. These people aren’t dumb, lazy nor improvident. They are just poor. The last tax cut helped those who least needed help. Since tax codes aren’t likely to change there will have to be other government programs.

LACK OF SUPPORT FOR POWER-GRABBING AMENDMENTS SPEAKS VOLUMES: We know that the “victims rights” amendment is part of a state-by-state, cookie-cutter effort financed by a California billionaire and that the “hunting and fishing” amendment emanates from a cynical national conservative effort to drive rural white voters to the polls. But the rest of the slate appears to have simply emerged from the late night musings and behind-closed-doors machinations of Republican legislative leaders. And this weirdly opaque situation has only grown weirder and more opaque in recent weeks as Election Day has drawn nearer. The evident support for the two power-grabbing amendments, in particular, is so thin that it’s literally as if N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, a Republican from Rockingham County, and N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore (the two main GOP figures behind all six amendments) are attempting to amend the state’s fundamental governing document through a deceptive political magic trick or shell game.

MESSAGE TO YOUNG VOTERS: THE GOP IS SCARED OF YOU: Maybe you find that hard to believe. Maybe you wonder how the party can be scared of you — or of anybody — given that it controls all three branches of the federal government and most of the nation’s state houses. You’re worried about paying your student loans, putting food on the table, getting home without becoming some cop’s mistake, and the GOP is scared of you? In a word: Yes. See, the party knows that if everybody votes, it can’t win. That’s simple math. The Republican electorate skews sharply older and white. Polling from The Roper Center at Cornell University says whites went for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 57 percent to 37 percent, while people of color strongly supported her, African Americans giving her 89 percent of their vote. Trump also lost big among young voters, but won big among their elders. This dependence on older whites is a problem for the GOP, given that the United States is fast moving toward a younger, non-white majority. The Census Bureau predicts that, well before mid-century, America will be a nation where no racial group enjoys a numerical advantage. And the authoritative FiveThirtyEight blog reports that the white median age in this country is 43, while for Asians it’s 36, for African Americans, 34 and for Hispanics, 29.

AMERICA'S ELECTIONS COULD BE HACKED. GO VOTE ANYWAY: All along, the nation’s top intelligence and law-enforcement officials have been sounding the alarm, warning that Russia is engaged in a “24-7 365-days-a-year” effort to disrupt the upcoming midterm elections and imploring Congress and the White House to take more decisive action. President Trump may not believe that the risk is real, but the American people do. An overwhelming majority say they are concerned about election security, and more than 60 percent say the Trump administration should be doing more to protect the vote from foreign interference. Numbers like these suggest that whether or not hackers manage to gain access to voting systems, they have already achieved their main goal, which is to sow pervasive doubt over the integrity of American elections. Whoever wins, this lack of confidence is as damaging to the nation’s democracy as it is to its national security. And it drives down turnout at the polls, as voters who are already skeptical of the political process begin to believe not just that their vote won’t count, but that it literally won’t be counted.


MARTHA BROCK: FORCED TREATMENT OF MENTALLY ILL NEEDS TO END: I wonder why Disability Rights North Carolina and the National Disability Rights Network choose to quibble about issues like transport of patients and ignore the larger and more severe problem of forced treatment of individuals labeled as mentally ill, something usually ignored by the medical and legal communities (“Police shouldn’t transport mental health patients,” Oct. 18). Please note that both women who died in the tragic South Carolina incident had voluntarily sought treatment. It does not matter what your intent was once you are in the hospital emergency department. If you have any history of mental illness under current law, the chances of going home are practically nil. I am a former employee of Disability Rights NC, so I know that the National Disability Rights Network is not the only civil rights group to dodge this issue. So has the ACLU and many others. However, it is long past the time to break the silence about coercion and forced medication in our nation.

JONAH MEYER: VOTER SUPPRESSION IS REAL AND DANGEROUS: Shame, shame, on any group or individual who abuses his position of power in an effort to disenfranchise or otherwise frustrate the ability of particular groups of our nation’s citizenry from being able to cast a vote! I can think of nothing more despicable and repugnant inasmuch as it relates to the very basic and perhaps most significant element of a functioning democracy: unfettered access by all eligible persons to cast a ballot and have that vote count. While my friends on the right often complain about voter fraud — a phenomenon that time and again has been proven to be virtually nonexistent — intimidation, outright misinformation, gerrymandering, purging of voter rolls and the many other creative ways some officials are attempting to, through any loophole imaginable, hinder one’s ability to vote, are very real, present and dangerous. (Observe Georgia, Texas and Florida, among other states, in 2018.) Such actions are not only morally wrong but serve as the direct epitome of anti-democratic ideals.

DAVID KIEL: WHY IS TRUMP SO FRIENDLY WITH ASSASSINS?: Why does this president seem to favor leaders who approve of or initiate assassinations? This week he has refused to condemn the killing of a U.S.-based Saudi national who wrote for The Washington Post. His murder was apparently orchestrated by the Saudi crown prince who Trump considers a close ally. In the past, he has praised Vladimir Putin, who is widely believed to have had Russian nationals murdered in the U.K., historically our closest ally. He is approving of the Philippine president who boasts about his county’s hundreds, if not thousands, of extra-judicial killings of suspected drug dealers. His diplomatic favorite is the North Korean dictator, who had his own half brother murdered in a public assassination. These are just four examples that are obvious to any person who pays some attention to the news. Isn’t it time that those who support the rule of law stand up and send a message that we do not support murder as a public policy?



From the dark side

Shame on the N&O for giving column space to the conspiracy theorist Jay DeLancy:

Even foreign election observers have confirmed our warnings about this state’s election laws: When it comes to preventing voter fraud, North Carolina falls below nations like Libya and Mexico.

Summarizing the opinions of 60-plus United Nations observers, Foreign Policy Magazine wrote, “The most often noted difference between American elections among the visitors was that in most U.S. states, voters need no identification . . . and there’s often no way to know if one person has voted several times under different names.”

The first thing you need to understand, this visiting group of observers were not elections "professionals," they were from emerging democracies that have struggled with widespread (real) voter fraud. And their solution for the "several times under different names" is an ink finger:

The most often noted difference between American elections among the visitors was that in most U.S. states, voters need no identification. Voters can also vote by mail, sometimes online, and there’s often no way to know if one person has voted several times under different names, unlike in some Arab countries, where voters ink their fingers when casting their ballots.

The international visitors also noted that there’s no police at U.S. polling stations. In foreign countries, police at polling places are viewed as signs of security; in the United States they are sometimes seen as intimidating.

No doubt Jay would love to see police in SWAT gear roaming around the polls checking identification documents and throwing people in paddy wagons if something didn't look right. Or if someone didn't look right. Thankfully, we live in a society that (for the most part) does not tolerate such authoritarian ways. Back to dumbass:

While no single preventative measure can stop all vote fraud, a well-designed voter ID law would mitigate certain types. And it would greatly reduce North Carolina’s easiest form of disenfranchisement — voter impersonation fraud.

Okay, this is quite possibly the stupidest thing he's ever said or written. When somebody casts a vote, either at an early voting site or their designated precinct, it would be immediately obvious if somebody else had already voted in their place. The state's database would show that, or the polling book, and to my knowledge, nobody has been turned away because their vote had already been cast by someone else. Yes, theoretically if a registered voter decided not to vote during an election, there wouldn't be a "triggering" incident to call attention to a stolen vote. But that would require prior knowledge by this (hypothetical) fraudster that boggles the mind.

In other words, it's not an "easy form of disenfranchisement," it's about as close to impossible as you can get.

Denying such confident claims, voter ID opponents gleefully cite sources like N.C. State Board of Election’s 2016 post-election audit, which reported only “verifying” two people who committed voter identity theft. Both of them provided the kinds of emotional explanations that a district attorney won’t touch. Next, elite thinkers will cite these cases as “proof” that voter impersonation fraud is “rare.”

Sadly, nobody mentioned the same report’s cleverly hidden caveat: “No audit exists to catch all possible cases of voter impersonation. . . .” Translation, they have no idea how many people vote with other people’s names and no way of catching them.

While vote fraud deniers studiously avoid that inconvenient truth, others exploit it.

Who exploits it? Since of course Jay DeLancy has absolutely no evidence of this alleged conspiracy to thwart our elections, it becomes "others" who do it. Like many paranoid and delusional individuals, when his fantasy runs into the brick wall of reality, he points a finger at the entire system as being hopelessly flawed:

In sum, our seven-year effort has yielded three disturbing conclusions: 1) election officials are not aggressively analyzing enough data; 2) no outside agencies look over their shoulders; and 3) they protect their careers by assuring the public they don’t “see” any voter impersonation fraud.

Protect their careers? Dude, elections officials are some of the lowest paid civil service workers there are, and most of them aren't even paid for their work. Hell, even the lawyers on staff make a fraction of what they would earn in other government jobs, not to mention the private sector.

But all of that crazy bullshit aside, the biggest hole in this conspiracy theory is simple: Voter fraud is simply not worth the risk. Why would somebody jeopardize their freedom by intentionally casting a fraudulent vote? Or five? Or ten? The more you do it, the more likely you'd get caught. There just isn't any sane reason to pursue such a venture, and the fact DeLancy believes there is calls his own sanity into question.

The N&O needs to be more than ashamed of this

It's frankly irresponsible of a newspaper to publish such inflammatory - and patently false - information, completely unquestioned, when we have a state Constitutional amendment on the ballot and an upcoming election.