Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Slippery Slope

Grant Whitney
Yesterday, during the hours-long teleconference by the NC State Board of Elections and before the Board voted 4-0 to order an Early Voting polling place at the Appalachian State University Student Union, the same Board voted 3-2 against Early Voting at Winston-Salem State University. Newly installed Chair Grant Whitney voted with the other Republicans in denying the majority black student population at WSSU an Early Voting site. The Winston-Salem Journal captured the most telling comment of the day:
Chairman Grant Whitney said he worried that if the board put early voting at one college, every other college would want the same thing.
Yes, they worry, don't they? You let one interested college student easy access to voting, and pretty soon more of them are wanting easy access to voting. Whatever will this come to?

Grant Whitney then recused himself from the vote on ASU. Inquiring minds wonder why.

This particular moment in the on-going saga of North Carolina voting rights reminds me of an ancient limerick:
An epicure dining at Crewe
Found a very large bug in his stew.
Said the waiter, "Don't shout
And wave it about,
Or the rest will be wanting one too."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

ASU Gets an Early Voting Site While Aceto & Owens Get Egg on Their Faces

Bill Aceto
Jesse Wood at High CountryPress has a good partial blow-by-blow of this afternoon's teleconference of the state Board of Elections, which did not go well for either Bill Aceto or Nancy Owen, the two Republican members of the Watauga County Board of Elections, whose sole reason for existing and holding public office is to prevent ASU students from voting on campus.

Aceto and Owen did not reckon on new member of the state BOE, Republican James Baker. They apparently didn't reckon that Mr. Baker, a retired superior court judge, would actually read the decision handed down in the fall of 2014 by another superior court judge, Donald Stephens of Wake County, declaring that the actions taken by the Republican majority on the Watauga BOE had violated the constitutional rights of college students.

Baker therefore asked Owen (because Aceto was not on the call yet), "What has changed since 2014" to make your Early Voting plan constitutional?

Nancy Owen
Owen had no answer. Neither did Aceto, when he finally got on the call. Growing increasingly frustrated that the state BOE was no longer in the tank for the partisan corruption of Watauga County elections, Aceto finally blurted out that he just didn't agree with Judge Stephens' ruling.

Not a good career move for Aceto. You don't tell a retired superior court judge that you didn't do the constitutional thing because you just didn't agree with another judge's ruling.

Meanwhile, Watauga BOE member Nancy Owen got a strong lesson in the downside of being a stooge for manipulative and corrupt people.

The misrepresentation of Early Voting records that Aceto had presented as truth to the state BOE -- which we reported on here yesterday -- was quickly recanted by Aceto during the teleconference this afternoon. He had no choice but to acknowledge his "error."

If You Want To Dial In to the State Board of Elections Meeting Today...

At two p.m. this afternoon:

Dial 415.930.5321. Access code = 127-597-008

It's reportedly a long agenda, and the Watauga County case may be near the end. Check these document files.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Uncovering Deception at the Watauga Board of Elections

Watauga BOE Chair Bill Aceto and his handpicked successor to Elections Director Jane Anne Hodges -- Matt Snyder -- have clearly colluded in attempting to mislead the state Board of Elections.

Bill Aceto
Tomorrow in a teleconference, the State Board of Elections will vote on an Early Voting plan for Watauga County during the March primary. The Bill Aceto Plan denies an Early Voting site on the campus of Appalachian State University. The alternative plan submitted by "minority member" Stella Anderson provides an Early Voting site on the ASU campus.

Both sides presented their different plans in writing to the State BOE. The Anderson plan is accompanied by numerous displays, calculations of votes-per-hour during the fall 2014 elections (after an Early Voting site was restored at ASU under court order), and demographic information on population density.

Aceto's argument, on the other hand, relies on a factual lie.

Aceto & Snyder Collude
In his argument to the State BOE justifying no polling site on the ASU campus, Aceto attempts to show that a single courthouse Early Voting site for the entire town of Boone is perfectly adequate.

This is a direct quote from Bill Aceto's argument to the State BOE:
"For the November 2014 General Election, 6,142 early voters were easily accommodated by the nearby Board of Elections office site, which averaged 77.25 voters per hour …. Please note the calculations of voters per hour differ with those provided by Member Anderson, and I have verified my calculations with the Watauga County Elections Director [Matt Snyder]. In sum, these numbers do not justify having two sites within one-half mile of each other duplicating efforts when our funds could be utilized in other locations." (italics added)
Indeed, those "calculations of voters per hour differ" from Anderson's evidence … mainly because Aceto's numbers -- "verified" by Matt Snyder -- are totally bogus.

Matt Snyder
Aceto took the combined Early Voting turnout of both the courthouse site and the ASU Student Union site and attributed it to the courthouse site, never bothering to inform the State BOE members that 2,551 of those early votes attributed to the courthouse site were actually cast at the ASU Student Union and that in fact the ASU site hosted more voters per hour than the Administration site.

Why Do We Not Trust Elections in Watauga County?

Because the people in charge of conducting elections in Watauga County are transparently partisan in their goals and fundamentally dishonest in their behavior.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

A Sleeper Redistricting Court Challenge Suddenly Explodes Over the Blue Skies of North Carolina

No one in particular was watching the court challenge to the redistricting of two congressional districts filed over two years ago, but late yesterday plaintiffs David Harris, Christine Bowser, and Samuel Love suddenly prevailed in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The three-judge panel unanimously threw out the racial gerrymandering of Congressional District 1 and District 12. It was a blistering opinion. The judges gave the NC General Assembly exactly two weeks to fix the problem.

Meanwhile, all adjoining and abutting congressional districts will be impacted by any fix, which is throwing the March primary -- another bright idea of the Republican geniuses in the General Assembly -- into chaos and doubt. We intercepted the following opinion from a legal authority with expertise in election law:
The ruling throws the March 15 primary into chaos, as the judges ordered state lawmakers to redraw the maps within two weeks and not to hold any elections for U.S. House until the maps are in place. A special session of the legislature would have to be called to approve new maps, and they might have to pass federal muster again.
Of course, the redistricting masterminds in the Republican Party promise a quick appeal to the Supreme Court, which will further drag out the resolution of this colossal mess the legislators have created. They want to blame the courts, but that dog won't hunt: the courts are there for the redress of grievances, and there are grievances aplenty with this General Assembly.

How much chaos is enough chaos? We've gotten it in spades from those guys, as they tried to legislate North Carolina back into the 19th century, and court after court has slapped them down hard.

The chief drawers of those redistricting maps claimed over and over that racial considerations were never a part of their calculations. No one with at least two working synapses believed them. Neither did the judges on the 4th Circuit: “The record is replete with statements indicating that race was the legislature’s paramount concern,” the judges wrote.

Friday, February 05, 2016

A Dunce Hat for Bill Cobey

Bill Cobey, chairman of the State Board of Education, former chair of the NC Republican Party, and a former one-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, has "a weak explanation" for why few college kids in North Carolina are now pursuing a career in public school teaching. Cobey said the decline in interest reflected a society that emphasizes “making a lot of money as opposed to making a difference” (N&O).

Do we call that "psychological projection," a.k.a. "blame-shifting"? Certainly, Mr. Cobey's Republican Party is money-obsessed, but insulting an entire generation of bright, young college students, many of whom have been inspired by excellent teachers to the point they thought seriously of pursuing a career in teaching, but most of whom also need to eat regular meals and pay the rent and buy gas for the car -- it's out of line, Mr. Cobey.

The profession of public school teaching in North Carolina has declined under the ministrations of Mr. Cobey's Republican Party to the point where one's rationality might be questioned if he or she announced to the family, "I think I'll go into teaching in North Carolina, because the General Assembly and the Governor have succinctly signaled their lack of interest and, in fact, their active hostility toward public schools and public school teaching, and I'm promised a long career of poor pay and no advancement and dipping into my own pocketbook to buy my own supplies." 

But for Mr. Cobey, those kids just want to make "a lot of money as opposed to making a difference," which makes him a colossal ass as well as a clueless chair of the State Board of Education. Mr. Cobey and his pals in the General Assembly are the ones making the difference, the difference between a well educated and dynamic citizenry in North Carolina and a declining and doomed educational system.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Ginny, Call Your Office

Part of a sample primary ballot produced and circulated by the Rowan County Board of Elections.

Janet Cowell Caves

NC State Treasurer Janet Cowell, who is also chair of the board of trustees for the State Health Plan, has announced that controversial changes to the state employees health plan for 2018 have been taken off the agenda for the board's meeting tomorrow.

Janet Cowell is a Democrat. In a surprise move late last year, she announced that she would not be running for reelection, or for anything else.

Sometimes, public pressure works.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Employee Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Some 685,000 North Carolina state workers (including teachers, y'all!), state retirees, and their families are facing a sudden and cruel rewriting of the state health insurance rules that will drop employee spouses from coverage as well as simply eliminate the popular "80/20 plan," forcing state employees into junk insurance plans at higher cost.

The State Health Plan board of trustees will vote on whether to mug state employees this Friday. They say they're having to do this because the Republicans in the General Assembly demanded a reduction in cost. Members of the General Assembly, including the ineffable Jonathan Jordan, say they're as surprised as you are and don't understand why this is happening. Don't you believe it.

Every last one of those Republican members of the General Assembly voted for the budget that is busily shifting the cost of everything onto the backs of working people while giving big tax breaks to the rich and to corporations. Jonathan Jordan is responsible (along with Dan Soucek, who's getting the hell out of Dodge).
Changes under consideration would also add premiums and raise the deductibles paid by those who enroll in the remaining plans. One of those is a "consumer-directed" plan with high deductibles paired with a health savings account. For many state workers, particularly those who earn lower salaries, that plan isn't affordable, said Ardis Watkins, the lead lobbyist for SEANC [State Employees Assn. of NC]....
Watkins said that, if the health plan wants to look for savings, its own consultants have pointed toward potential changes that would net at least $250 million per year. The state, she said, should bring the rates paid to providers more in line with rates paid by Medicare. That would mean less profit for doctors and hospitals, something that would be likely to spur push-back by medical providers. Passing on the costs to state employees, she said, may be the politically easier option.
We should know by now, after five years of Republican rule in this state, that screwing their own employees comes very naturally to these guys. We can only hope that those 685,000 workers, retired or active, make it politically uneasy to do this dirt.

The best part? The trustees of the State Health Plan have made it virtually impossible for the citizens to contact them to express an opinion (see the video posted below). Their contact information is carefully shielded, though some sleuths have turned up a few of them (see below the video).

Contact info for members of the board of trustees of the State Health Plan:
Dr. Paul Cunningham
Kim Hargett (who is also running for the NC House). Her campaign’s mailing address:
Charles T Johnson
220 Bragg St
Warrenton NC 27589
Aaron McKeithan
Billy Medlin
600 7 Lks #7
West End, NC 27376
Warren Newton
590 Manning Drive
CB 7595
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7595
David Rubin