Monday, January 29, 2018

Bad News For Republicans In North Carolina Who Count On Election Fraud


This trailer for Dirty Money, the Netflix documentary, isn't what this post is specifically about. On the other hand, I'd guess that 70-80% of the posts at DWT are tied to the subject matter of the documentary. The trailer is about 2 minutes long; watch it and you'll see what I mean.Hint is a couple of lines from Matt Taibbi: "When these companies become so important, when they're a member of a class that is not jailable..." That makes people really angry-- and they could respond worse than just putting the crooks in jail, as billionaire Nick Hanauer explained in a TED Talk a few years ago.

The Netflix series starts off with a con by Volkswagen. Episode 2 begins with payday lenders. Our elected officials let these crooks fleece us-- and it's not just corrupt Republicans. They are more than a few corrupt Democrats as well. Talk about congressional crooks who took massive bribes from the payday lending industry and you can't tell the full story-- which features GOP con men like Kevin Yoder (KS), Jeb Hensarling (TX) and Pete Sessions (TX)-- without looking at shady self-servers like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Patrick Murphy and Alcee Hastings-- an that';s just the Floridians who belong in prison!

One of the reasons congressmembers can get away with this kind of thing is because of safe seats created by partisan gerrymandering. In fact, when she was in the Florida state Senate, Wasserman Schultz agreed to support giving the Republicans a couple iff extra seats that were unmerited in return for Republican support for her drawing a highly gerrymandered congressional seat for herself! Last week I was delighted to read a post by Mark Stern at Slate, North Carolina Supreme Court Strikes Down GOP Attempt to Control Elections Board. This is something different from the anti-gerrymandering rulings that have been coming down lately, but it is extremely important for North Carolina Democrats and independents. Friday North Carolina's Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, "struck down a Republican-sponsored measure stripping Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper of his ability to regulate the state’s elections." The ruling ensures Cooper will be able to restore voting rights for North Carolinians in time for the 2018 election, something driving Republicans crazy.
Following Cooper’s election in November 2016, the GOP-dominated General Assembly passed a series of bills weakening the governorship and concentrating power in the legislature. The centerpiece of this effort was a radical overhaul of the board of elections. Previously, the board had five members, with three from the governor’s party. Under former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, the body authorized a dramatic rollback of early voting and a reduction in polling places, particularly in minority-heavy communities. Cooper planned to reverse these policies. But before he could, the legislature restructured the board, creating a new group with eight appointees, four Democratic and four Republican. The practical effect would be near-constant gridlock.

Cooper sued, and a state court blocked the measure in March. But the legislature promptly tweaked the law and passed it again. (Due to litigation, however, the eight-person board never actually assembled.) Once again, Cooper filed suit, alleging that the overhaul violated the North Carolina constitution.

A majority of the state Supreme Court-- all four of its Democratic justices-- agreed with Cooper. In his opinion for the court, Justice Sam J. Ervin explained that the fundamental flaw in the act was its infringement upon the separation of powers. The North Carolina constitution contains an unusually robust separation-of-powers clause, requiring the legislative, executive, and judicial branches to be “forever separate and distinct from each other.” It also directs the governor to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” In a previous decision, the court ruled that these provisions preserve the governor’s control over boards within the executive branch, including the appointment of commissioners.

The new elections board, Ervin noted, plainly runs afoul of this rule. Under the law, the governor must select four Republican commissioners from a list devised by GOP legislative leaders. Yet the board is an executive branch agency over which Cooper is constitutionally empowered to exercise significant control. Ervin thus concluded that, in creating the board, the legislature had overstepped its constitutional boundaries and encroached upon the governor’s. To remedy this problem, Ervin held that the legislature must allow the governor to appoint a majority of commissioners from his own party to the state board.

Friday’s decision did not hand Cooper an absolute victory. The court declined to strike down measures that gave Republicans some administrative control over the state board and that equally divided county boards between Democrats and Republicans. Instead, the court adopted a wait-and-see approach: It held that these laws could violate separation of powers, but postponed final judgment until the state board’s configuration is brought in line with the constitution. Cooper will likely challenge these rules separately in the near future.

For now, the state Supreme Court’s ruling is a qualified success for the governor-- and, much more importantly, a victory for North Carolina voters. Once Democrats take control, the new elections board can repeal McCrory’s disenfranchisement policies and protect access to the ballot for all North Carolinians. The state won’t have truly fair elections until the legislature is forced to redraw its politically and racially gerrymandered districts. But Friday’s ruling is an important step forward in the state’s fight for the franchise.
The likeliest progressive to be favorably impacted by the ruling is Jenny Marshall, who is running against notorious GOP bigot Virginia Foxx. Late last night she told me that "North Carolinians across the state have been relying on the courts to intervene on the behalf of democracy and their rights to vote. Since gaining power over the North Carolina General Assembly, the GOP have hurled assault after assault that would disenfranchise voters and ensure their power grab continues. I have personally witnessed my local board of elections meetings where the GOP majority ignored the needs of the people in regards to accessible voting locations and restricted hours and days of early voting locations. They would not even consider opening a previously used polling location on the campus of Winston Salem State University, a historically black university despite the community outcry. Their only aim was to suppress the minority millennial vote. The GOP even made it so that anyone could challenge and ultimately eliminate your vote. As a Democratic party poll worker, we were warned to watch for people who sought to challenge and intimidate voters from casting their ballot. I made sure I had the voter protection number ready to assist people who were refused access to the ballot box as I worked open to close that election day. While we still have partisan gerrymandering and a run amok legislature, having a state board of elections restored to the purview of Governor Cooper means the people of North Carolina win. Democracy wins."

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At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howie, can you get rid of the spam on all the comment threads?


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