Archive for North Carolina

Apr
26

Back to the voting booth

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Well, that didn’t go as hoped. This morning’s headline in the Charlotte Observer online reads, “Federal judge who backed limits on early ballots upholds voter ID requirement.” Slate summarizes:

A federal judge on Monday upheld a 2013 North Carolina voter ID law that increased the requirements a voter must meet to cast a ballot, a move that critics say is an effort to discourage black and Hispanic voters from political participation. The suit was brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, as well as a group of North Carolina voters, and claimed the new measure, one of the strictest in the country, violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, however, disagreed and in his 485-page opinion wrote “North Carolina has provided legitimate state interests for its voter ID requirement and electoral system.”

Critics condemned the ruling, which they will likely appeal to the 4th Circuit:

“This is just one step in a legal battle that is going to continue in the courts,” said Penda Hair, an attorney representing the NAACP. The law “targets the provisions that once made North Carolina among the states with the highest turnout in the nation. This progress was especially clear among African-American and Latino voters, who came to rely on measures like early voting, same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional ballots to ensure their voices were heard.”

The New York Times explains what was on the table:

The opinion, by Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court in Winston-Salem, upheld the repeal of a provision that allowed people to register and vote on the same day. It also upheld a seven-day reduction in the early-voting period; the end of preregistration, which allowed some people to sign up before their 18th birthdays; and the repeal of a provision that allowed for the counting of ballots cast outside voters’ home precinct.

It also left intact North Carolina’s voter identification requirement, which legislators softened last year to permit residents to cast ballots, even if they lack the required documentation, if they submit affidavits.

Just weeks ahead of a hearing last July, Republicans in the legislature swapped out some of the barricades to voting for hoops.

Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog has additional analysis of the opinion, including these observations on the original impetus behind the bill:

5. On the need for the voter id law to prevent voter fraud, the court says first that it is hard to find impersonation fraud without an id requirement, but more importantly the Supreme Court in the Crawford case said there need not be evidence of impersonation fraud to justify the law. So while the plaintiffs have to present tons of evidence of burden, the state can get by with no evidence of a need. (This seems perverse to me.)

So plaintiffs provided insufficient proof of a burden and the state provided no justification for the law. Let’s call it even.

6. The court also finds that the state did not act with discriminatory intent, citing (without an appreciation for irony) at p. 387 the testimony of Hans von Spakovsky to the legislature on the need for this restrictive law. Whether or not his testimony was true, the court says, the legislature could have believed it true, thereby negating possibility of discriminatory intent.

Spakovsky, the Professor Harold Hill of voter fraud, testified that the “potential for abuse exists.” And windmills might be giants. Sufficient enough reason to pass a law restricting them.

It’s back to the voting booth, people, if voters expect to stop them from stopping voters.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Apr
19

The few, the proud, the “maintainers”

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After spending several post-college months riding trains around Europe, I took the train from New York to Washington, D.C. where I’d left my car with my sister. Compared to the silky ride of the Deutsche Bahn, this sucker was rocking, rumbling, and lurching all the way. Thought I was going to die.

The experience gave me a gut-level appreciation for well-maintained infrastructure and the unsung people who keep things working so smoothly one only notices when they don’t. “Hail the maintainers,” write Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell for Aeon. “Innovation,” they believe, is overvalued:

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Apr
17

Legislating conformity

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Because conservatives have trouble coping with ambiguity….

North Carolina continues to receive fallout and national opprobrium for its legislative freakout over transgender rights. Americans celebrate personal freedom and people going their own way, don’t we, unless it involves gender and sex? I have already written about how North Carolina’s HB2 is a Trojan Horse for a crackdown on workers’ rights. But some coffee urn jokes this week about bathrooms and people’s chosen “lifetyles” got under my skin.

Just as despite everyday observation, the Earth is not flat, neither are sex and gender binary. What laws like North Carolina’s HB2 demand is legally enforced conformity to a binary standard in a world built upon natural variance.

When I was a child, an aunt, uncle and cousins lived next door to a family of albinos. To a kid, they appeared pretty odd. Weird even. But after a few visits and a few neighborhood cookouts, they were just the O’Shaughnessys (not their real name). Both different and the same. They weren’t sequestered in a remote neighborhood of the city, told they had to use a special restroom, or treated as potential criminals. At least, not by us. And albinism is far rarer (1 in 20,000) than the kind of sex and sexual identity variances North Carolina just tried to make disappear through legislation. Disappearing what makes us uncomfortable has become a thing here. The legislature already decreed that the sea level is not rising.

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Apr
13

Springtime for Pat

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Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina

Oh, those Producers. It’s springtime in Raleigh. Just not for Pat McCrory. When last we saw North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory he was backpedaling on House Bill 2 (HB2).

Critics now call the so-called “bathroom bill” aimed at his gay and transgender constituents a radical Trojan Horse for eliminating anti-discrimination protections in the workplace. Since McCrory signed the bill passed during a one-day, special session Republicans called in March, prominent businesses began boycotting the state, canceling expansions and conventions there, and national performers such as Bruce Springsteen began canceling concert dates. Projected job losses number well over 1,000. Revenue losses have not been calculated. It’s almost as if … they designed HB2 to fail.

Nah.

The national and international backlash forced McCrory yesterday to sign an executive order aimed at quelling the controversy over the bill he signed just weeks ago:

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Apr
03

“Frontiers of wrongness”

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Puzzling over how the next few months are going to shake out, it is easy to sympathize with Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir. He writes about a conference call this week in which strategist Tad Devine explained how the Bernie Sanders campaign means to whittle away at Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead:

One reason the thought-leaders of media groupthink listened so eagerly to Devine’s Gandalfian pronouncements is that we’ve been wrong about damn near everything in 2016 — wrong about Sanders, wrong about Trump, wrong about the enduring power of the “Republican establishment” and wrong about the stability of the two-party system. Who is to say we’re not wrong this time too? Who can imagine what new frontiers of wrongness lie ahead?

“Frontiers of wrongness” brought to mind the flat-earthers’ maps. Perhaps the most tantalizing aspect of their wrongness is the notion that beyond Antarctica lie uncharted lands still left to explore. Perhaps Donald Trump will build a resort/casino there? Perhaps North Carolina can send its unwanted gay and transgender people there?

Frank Bruni comments on both the wrongness and the shortsightedness of Republican’s anti-gay agenda, a provincial and retrograde attempt to stand athwart history as it bends towards equality and justice. Plus, sponsors are getting nervous about particpating in the RNC convention, what with the “brew of misogyny, racism and xenophobia stirred up by Trump.” Bruni writes:

THE party’s anti-gay efforts not only undermine its pro-business stance but also contradict conservatives’ exaltation of local decision making. The North Carolina law was drafted and passed expressly to undo and override an ordinance in the state’s most populous city, Charlotte, that extended L.G.B.T. protections against discrimination to transgender people who want to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The law went so far as to forbid any municipality from instituting its own anti-discrimination protections, lest they contradict the state’s.

Apparently conservatives love the concept of local control when the locality being given control tilts right, but they have a different view when it leans left. Rural sensibilities must be defended while cosmopolitan ones are dismissed.

And don’t miss the Trojan Horse provisions in that NC law that significantly indemnify discrimination by employers.

Charlie Pierce is in Madison, Wisconsin to cover the primary on Tuesday and has a few choice words on the wrongness of Gov. Scott Walker’s voter ID legislation. Bernie Sanders had more biting ones:

“It has never occurred to me and I think to most candidates that the way you try to win an election is to make it harder for people who might vote against you to participate in the election,” Sanders said. “That is political cowardice.”

The room erupted in cheers — including one man who yelled “Go get ‘em, Bernie!” — as he accused Walker and other Republican governors who support laws requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote of trying to deny people of color, poor people and the elderly their right to vote.

“If you don’t have the guts to participate in a free, open and fair election, get another job. Get outta politics,” Sanders said.

But getting back to O’Hehir’s frontiers of wrongness, where will Sanders supporters go this fall should he not win the Democratic nomination? Furthermore, where will Trump’s go if he wins the nomination and loses badly in the fall? Michael Bourne wonders:

For a generation, gun advocates have defended the right to bear arms as a check against tyranny, and for just as long liberals have dismissed this as a melodramatic talking point. But what if we take them at their word, and accept that it is possible we are witnessing the opening phase of a still-inchoate violent uprising by a broad class of Americans, who, ignored politically, bypassed economically, and dismissed socially, are beginning to take matters into their own hands?

What if, in other words, Donald Trump isn’t an aberration created by the miscalculations of a party elite, but the political expression of a much deeper, and more dangerous, frustration among a very large, well-armed segment of our population? What if Trump isn’t a proto-Mussolini, but rather a regrettably short finger in the dike holding back a flood of white violence and anger this country hasn’t seen since the long economic boom of the 1950s and ’60s helped put an end to the Jim Crow era?

What is most worrisome about the uncertainty ahead is the sense that on both the left and the right many people have convinced themselves that the republic is beyond repair. Decades of right-wing “voter fraud” propaganda have done their work, to where even the left believes, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren reminds us, “the game is rigged.” She may be speaking primarily (and accurately) about the economy, but the rigged meme is widespread, with even lefty activists quick to see conspiracies first and ask sober questions later.

There is a kind of Nero impulse afoot. Susan Sarandon’s comments captured the mood well. And if there are those on the left prepared to see the republic restored in cleansing fire, Bourne’s concerns about the right may be well-founded. The question is whether all the talk of revolution isn’t more Trumpian-style bluster. The thing about bringing down purifying fire is that innocent villagers tend to get sprayed with napalm.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Apr
02

Attacking the cities

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Image National Conference of State Legislatures

While North Carolina’s HB2 anti-LGBT bill has received lots of press attention, it is simply the latest attack by Republican-led state legislatures against cities filled with large blocks of blue voters, the next phase of the Defund the Left strategy. Like Michigan’s 2015 “Death Star” preemption bill (HB 4052) which, as introduced, overrode “all local ordinances governing employers’ relationships with their employees,” but also “any local ordinance that controls minimum wage, benefits, sick leave, union organizing and strikes, wage disputes” and more, North Carolina’s HB2 is its kin. PR Watch looked at the trend back in February:

With Congress gridlocked and a majority of state legislatures controlled by right-wing interests, cities have become laboratories of democracy for progressive policies like a higher minimum wage, LGBTQ protections, or parental leave.

In response, corporate interests and groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have increasingly been turning to state “preemption” measures—some of them unprecedentedly aggressive—to override an array of progressive policy gains at the city or county level.

“2015 saw more efforts to undermine local control on more issues than any year in history,” said Mark Pertschuk, director of the watchdog group Preemption Watch.

Last year, state legislatures in at least 29 states introduced bills to block local control over a range of issues, from the minimum wage, to LGBTQ rights, to immigration, according to Preemption Watch. Seventeen states considered more than one preemption bill.

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Mar
30

NC’s HB2: Is it getting hot in here?

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House Bill 2 (HB2), North Carolina’s new anti-LGBT law is drawing lots of fire from inside and outside the state. New York City, Seattle, San Francisco, and West Palm Beach have banned travel to North Carolina for their employees. Apple, Biogen, PayPal, IBM, and the NBA have condemned the law. Plus Dow Chemical, Google, Bayer, the NCAA, and others. The press center for the annual High Point furniture trade show announced Monday that “dozens of customers have contacted the High Point Market Authority to inform us that they have cancelled plans to attend the Market in April due to passage of HB2.”

Yesterday, former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. criticized HB2 as “inappropriate, unnecessary legislation that will hurt North Carolina.” The Charlotte-based Bank of America was a major player in the financial crisis in 2008, but still figures prominently among the state’s employers. McColl’s criticism will not help McCrory, Charlotte’s former mayor.

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Mar
26

Can you feel the integrity?

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Can you feel the election integrity? By now, you’ve heard of the mess in Arizona during primary voting this week. Or rather specifically, in Maricopa County. The Arizona Republic diagnosed the problem succinctly:

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Mar
26

We’ll Meet Again

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North Carolina legislators announced this week that they’re changing North Carolina’s state song from “The Old North State” to Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again.” OK, not really.

North Carolina’s Anti-Gay Tourism Commercial from Funny Or Die

And the backlash builds against NC’s new LGBT discrimination bill:

On Wednesday, as the bill was being considered, Dow Chemical, Biogen, and Raleigh-based software company Red Hat all opposed it. Others have since added their voices, including IBM, American Airlines, PayPal, and Apple. (Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, is openly gay and graduated from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.) As my colleague Gillian White reported this week, North Carolina has sought to make itself a hub for tech companies and startups. Democrats in the state say the law could endanger federal Title IX funding for schools.

The NBA, in a statement, suggested it might reconsider plans to host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte. The NCAA also suggested the law might cause it tochange plans to hold elements of its annual college-basketball tournament and other events in the Old North State—a move that could resonate in this hoops-crazed state.

 

San Francisco’s mayor has barred publicly funded employees from travelling to North Carolina.

The NCGOP already booted the movie industry, but just for good measure:

Rob Reiner Says He Won’t Shoot in North Carolina Unless Anti-LGBT Law Is Repealed

Others will follow, just not to North Carolina.

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Mar
24

“A legislature led by extremists” #WeAreNotThis

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Republicans in the swing state of North Carolina must feel heavily gerrymandering the state hasn’t given them enough of an election-year edge. Nor implementing perhaps the most radical voter restrictions in the country. In the chaos caused by the new voter ID law during last week’s record primary turnout, voters cast over 40,000 provisional ballots. The highest concentrations were on college campuses.

But there is nothing quite like a hot-button, social issue to bring out the GOP faithful and distract them from thinking about the condition of the state’s schools, or their jobs, or how screwed up their state Republican party is.

Yesterday, the GOP-controlled legislature convened a special session to overturn a Charlotte ordinance allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their identities. But that was just the warm-up. “The bill also prevents local governments from passing ordinances that prohibit discrimination beyond a state standard based on race, religion, color, national origin and biological sex,” according to the Charlotte Observer. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the measure last night. But not before state Senate Democrats walked out in protest.

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