Republican voter suppression tactics

Breaking: Court rules NC Congressional maps be redrawn by the end of January

Excerpts from Democracy NC's 2016 Election report

Hat-tip to NC Policy Watch for bringing this to our attention:

Hurricane Matthew, hit the eastern part of the state on October 8 and 9 – just a few days before the regular voter registration deadline of October 14. Hurricane Matthew caused over a billion dollars of damage and led to devastating flooding across eastern and coastal North Carolina – an area of the state with large numbers of African-American and low-income voters. By order of a Wake County Superior Court judge, the voter registration deadline was extended by five days to October 19 in the 36 counties that had sustained enough damage to qualify for federal emergency assistance. The SBOE also sent a postcard to over 22,000 voters in the area who had requested mail-in absentee ballots, in hopes of rectifying cases where voters had not received their ballots or had lost them in the flooding, and coordinated with shelters and the postal service to pick up ballots from voters in time.

While the extension and other outreach efforts by the SBOE were helpful, the severe disruption caused by Hurricane Matthew was difficult to mitigate. Many eastern North Carolina voters remained displaced well through Election Day, and a handful of early voting locations and polling places across the impacted region had to be changed as a result of flooding and hurricane damage.

Some of those areas still haven't recovered, some 15 months later. Among many other problems, the effect on voter turnout was devastating. And so was the unnecessary confusion over out-of-precinct voting:

What Republicans did not want to hear when they blocked Judge Stephens from speaking during Committee hearing

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Here are some excerpts from his prepared statement:

It is my opinion that the quality and integrity of the trial bench [in North Carolina] is above reproach. I have found no evidence to the contrary. None. I have heard no sworn testimony or information presented to this body or any other legislative committee that challenges or impugns the quality or the integrity of the [North Carolina] trial judiciary.

I understand that the fire trucks are here, but where is the fire? Who saw the fire? Who declared that the judicial house was on fire? You are drawing up plans to rebuild our judicial house that is not on fire and has no structural damage. Where is any evidence that the quality and integrity of this state’s judiciary is so poor that the constitution of [North Carolina] must be immediately drastically changed? Who has declared the emergency? On what basis?

Oh, there's an emergency all right. But it's one of Republicans' making. They're engaged in an all-out war on the judiciary, from the NC Supreme Court all the way down to the District and Superior Courts. And as for Republican judges who are already sitting, when one of their own (Doug McCullough) resigned from his CoA seat early so Governor Cooper could name his replacement instead of the Legislature, well. That just pissed them off to the point they decided to burn the whole damn thing down. Judge Stephens continues, and hat-tip to NC Policy Watch for (once again) providing truth to power:

Wake County still battling with Legislature over electoral districts

At stake are Commissioner and School Board seats:

Election officials are asking a judge for permission to use old district lines for next year’s election of Wake County school board members and commissioners as a lawsuit continues to make its way through the court system.

In 2011, the school board and commissioners adopted new election districts that they expected would be used through 2020. But the General Assembly redrew the maps in 2013 to turn two Wake school board seats into regional districts, with each covering about half the county. In 2015, state lawmakers changed the Wake commissioner lines to match the school board districts.

This should really be a no-brainer; nothing of substance has changed since they were allowed to use the old maps in the 2016 Election. And something doesn't become "Constitutional" just because it's aged a couple years:

Debunking yet another right-wing conspiracy theory

There are no such thing as ghost voters:

Los Angeles County’s registrar of voters, Dean Logan, explained to the Bee that the names on the inactive voter list are kept as a “fail-safe” so as to not disenfranchise or discourage voters. Combining “inactive voter” and “active voter” lists could result in a higher total number of registered voters that Judicial Watch says raises suspicions.

Logan and Gail Pellerin, the Santa Cruz County registrar of voters, told the Los Angeles Times that very few people on the “inactive voter” list actually show up to vote. As few as 12 people, out of 44,172 people on Santa Cruz County’s inactive list, showed up to vote in November, Pellerin said.

Deeply embedded in North Carolina's voter database are three (3) registration files for yours truly. I have seen them pulled up on a screen during an early voting session. One is from when I was stationed at Ft. Bragg back in the 1980's, another when I was still a (confused) Republican, and my current registration as a Democrat. The two older ones are "inactive" files, and mean absolutely nothing in the scheme of things. It's not a conspiracy to subvert democracy, and it's not even a "weakness that could be exploited" in the system. But efforts to purge voter rolls very likely is a conspiracy:

2018 elections: The only thing certain is uncertainty

And the NC GOP has certainly screwed up the electoral landscape:

This week, Democrat Anita Earls announced she would run for the seat on the state Supreme Court held by Republican Justice Barbara Jackson. But will there be an election in 2018 at all?

There's a different question surrounding legislative elections in 2018: which incumbents will be forced to share districts? New proposed district lines are out, drawn by an independent mapmaker, but that's not the final word.

Even though the court has spoken (clearly), and even though Percily only redrew a handful of districts, Republicans are still trying to bully their way in to scribble on the damn maps. They need to be called out by the press for their efforts to undermine democracy and the voters who rely on it, and they need to be spanked a lot harder by the courts for constantly muddying the waters. The people need to reclaim their time.

Exploring the mind of the Special Master

Nathan Persily has been a staunch advocate for democracy for years:

Republicans don’t necessarily have a problem with Persily’s credentials, which are many, or his map-drawing chops, which are considerable. They worry about what GOP lawyer Phil Strach called “possible bias.” They’re right about that, but maybe not for the reason they think.

He has characterized gerrymandering as “partisan greed” – which happens to be true, regardless of which party is engaging in it. He has frowned at the Supreme Court’s campaign finance decision in Citizens United because of the power it gave to the few – Democrat or Republican – who have a lot of money. He has argued against a Texas effort to draw districts based on eligible voters instead of total population, because it would dilute the voting power of a growing Latino population.

In summary, Persily has been laser-focused on defending the rights and Constitutionally-granted powers of individual voters, matters the NC GOP has worked against relentlessly since they were granted a majority by those same voters. Why would you do that? Why would you punish those who had entrusted you? The logical answer is: Because you knew from the start you were going to exceed your mandate, take steps that are clearly in violation of (at least) the spirit of the NC Constitution and your previously stated principles, and you wanted to make sure those voters would not be able to correct their mistake. Here's more on Persily:

Court appoints Special Master to review gerrymandered Legislative maps

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And this isn't the Professor's first rodeo either:

Judge Catherine Eagles informed the attorneys in the order that Nathaniel Persily, who has helped draw districts for New York, Maryland, Georgia and Connecticut, would review North Carolina’s new legislative maps and possibly help the judges draw new lines for 2018. Persily will be paid $500 an hour, which the judges described as half his typical hourly rate. The filing period for state legislative races is set to begin in February.

“If any party has grounds to believe that Professor Persily has a conflict of interest which would disqualify him from serving as Special Master or is otherwise objectionable,” the judges said, the attorneys should file an objection within two business days. Any objectors may suggest a different mapmaker, the judges added.

This article corrects something I've been getting wrong for several weeks: Candidate filing for Legislative races is in February, not December, so we've got more breathing room on that. Also something to keep in mind: Persily's involvement in evaluating and potentially redrawing district lines may be limited to just a handful of races:

Gerrymandering update: Court explains why it didn't order Special Election

There is much truth in this:

The court initially ordered a remedial special election but on appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed its ruling and ordered that the panel make further considerations about the remedy. At the end of July, the panel denied the request for a special election and issued a timeline for lawmakers to redraw the gerrymandered maps. The 48-page unanimous opinion released Tuesday explains why the judges denied the plaintiffs request.

“Notwithstanding these weighty considerations favoring a special election, we nonetheless conclude such an election would not be in the interest of Plaintiffs and the people of North Carolina,” it states. “The compressed and overlapping schedule such an election would entail is likely to confuse voters, raise barriers to participation, and depress turnout, and therefore would not offer the vigorously contested election needed to return to the people of North Carolina their sovereignty.”

Late last year I knew we were in a race against time, and if the issue wasn't dealt with quickly enough by the courts, those same courts would be hard-pressed to require a Special Election. It's tempting to be angry about the delaying tactics used by the GOP to stretch this thing out, but that won't accomplish much. I don't want to step on any toes, but something else that won't accomplish much are creating our own maps to counter the Republican ones:

Theatre of the absurd: Make all voters pass a Federal gun background check

Kris Kobach's voter suppression train is going off the rails:

A gun researcher who says the federal gun background check system doesn't work has a new idea for preventing voter fraud at polling places: Make every voter pass a federal gun background check.

John Lott, an independent researcher and Fox News commentator, is best known for his book “More Guns, Less Crime,” which argues that increases in gun ownership are associated with drops in crime (most mainstream criminologists reject this view).

Dude is certifiable, and yet he has been invited to the next Commission meeting to put forward this foolish and very likely unconstitutional proposal. It's another in a growing list of cases where the Congress would normally feel compelled to step in and reign back Executive overreach, if it was anybody other than Donald Trump engaging in it. While this gun-check thing is an absurd idea, and wouldn't make it past the first judge tasked to evaluate it, the ramifications of the Commission's willingness to even entertain the idea are the real danger:

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