Friday, June 02, 2023

The New GOP Voting Law: Gumming the Works, Slowing the Process


The main takeaways from S747, "Election Law Changes":

Gone: the 3-day "grace period" for getting your mail-in ballot to count. Under Ralph Hise's new proposed law, if your ballot isn't in the hands of your local Board of Elections office by the evening of Election Day, it'll get tossed.

The new law will make same-day-registrants vote a provisional ballot, a more time-consuming process that will slow up lines to vote.

The proposed new law will require local elections boards to acquire and use signature verification software for absentee ballots. It would require signature verifications for mail-in ballots — in addition to the current rules that also require two witnesses. We're seeking clarification if signature verification is only for mail-in absentee ballots or would also include those who are voting during early voting (which is also technically "absentee" voting). Since a voter now has to present ID at the time of voting, and they are directly signing their Authorization to Vote form upon check-in, why would signature verification be required as an added step? But it would be very much "on brand" for the Republicans to gum up the works further and sow confusion.

Signature verification for absentee balloting is probably of some concern for elderly voters, who tend disproportionately to favor absentee-by-mail and whose handwriting undergoes major changes through aging.

One major change that will surely be of use to election deniers: any registered voter in a county can now challenge any other voter. They do not have to be from the challenged voter's precinct.

Hise and the boys continue to cry "voter fraud" and "election integrity" as reasons for making voting harder. Voter fraud is rare; a 2016 audit by North Carolina officials found just two cases of voter impersonation in that year’s elections, out of 4.8 million ballots cast. When voter fraud has been a major issue in North Carolina, ironically, it's been voter fraud by Republicans: In 2018 North Carolina had to re-do a Congressional election because a campaign consultant for the Republican candidate was accused of submitting hundreds of fraudulent mail-in ballots. McCrae Dowless, the accused fixer, died last year while awaiting trial.

Sen. Ralph Hise Drops His New Voter Suppression Law


Sen. Ralph Hise of Spruce Pine is now our Senator for Watauga County, and he's an accomplished vote suppressor. His proposed new voting law dropped last night, and we'll all be studying it in the days ahead.

Here's the link if you want to take a look:

Thursday, June 01, 2023

New Voter Suppression Laws Coming for North Carolina


Will Doran, for WRAL:

Student voters will be
a major target for suppression

The 2024 elections in North Carolina could be conducted under far stricter rules under a proposal being crafted behind closed doors by Republican lawmakers — with input from a lawyer best known for assisting in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Republican operatives and state lawmakers expect a massive package of laws — affecting everything from voter ID to early voting, mail-in ballots, voter registration rules and more — to be filed in the coming days.

“From talking to leaders in the House and Senate, it appears they’re going to bundle all these meritorious changes … and put them in an omnibus bill,” Jim Womack, a longtime GOP politician and party insider familiar with Republican leaders’ thinking on the issue, said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “This is something my group has been pushing for.”

Womack’s group is the Election Integrity Network, whose state chapter he runs with Cleta Mitchell, a former lawyer for then-President Donald Trump. She and Womack have met with high-ranking Republican lawmakers in recent weeks, pushing their goals for changes to election laws ahead of the 2024 elections. They say their changes will add security to elections and give people more faith that future results aren’t rigged.

“The biggest issue across the nation is distrust in elections,” Womack said. “And it’s not just conservatives. It is more with conservatives, but it’s both sides.”

Mitchell was one of several lawyers heavily involved in Trump’s failed efforts to overturn the 2020 election results — including the famous call she, Trump and others made to Georgia election officials when Trump pressured the officials to “find” enough votes to let him win the state instead of his Democratic opponent Joe Biden, who actually won. A Georgia grand jury has been investigating the incident and whether to charge Trump criminally.

In recent months, she has made national news for her efforts in conservative circles to make it harder for younger people to vote in 2024, including by shortening the time available for voting and by restricting polling places on college campuses.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Is Dan Bishop the Biggest Dick in Mugstomp-on-the-Potomac?


Dan Bishop beat Democrat Dan McCready in a special election for the NC9 congressional seat in September 2019. In Congress, Bishop promptly joined the Freedom Caucus, a collection of soreheads that Bishop clearly determined to out-shine. (Bishop now represents NC8.) The acid in his veins sloshes like mango juice in a rolling barrel, and since 2019 he's never failed to grab the microphone and scorch the neighboring landscape.

He plays The Scourge of God. While he was running against McCready in 2019, he forced the ex-Marine to return a donation from fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar by smearing her (and McCready by association) with Muslim extremism and even anti-Semitism, a nasty move worthy of a too-clever-by-half white supremacist who enjoys the game.

Before September of 2019, Bishop had served terms in both the NC House and the NC Senate. In Raleigh, he was known as abrasive and obnoxiously conservative. The infamous Bathroom Bill, HB2, was his baby and led to a national boycott of North Carolina by major employers, conventions, sporting events, and entertainment figures. (He's terrible at economics.) About all that collateral damage, Bishop was defiantly unrepentant.

Another result of Bishop's nastiness: During the protests against Trump and trumpism at the 2017 Inauguration, former Gov. Pat McCrory, who had signed Bishop's bathroom bill into law, got recognized by a group of LGBTQ demonstrators on a Washington street, and when he began to run away from them, they gave chase, and there was film of McCrory's embarrassment. Bishop proposed criminalizing peaceful protests with a five-year minimum sentence. In 2020 Bishop became the first member of Congress to divulge the name of the whistleblower whose memo (about a phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky) sparked the first House impeachment inquiry. The federal Whistleblower Protection Act makes it illegal to divulge the name of a whistleblower, but so far as I know, Bishop experienced no repercussions.

Peach of a guy.

The Freedom Caucus held a fomenting press conference yesterday to denounce Speaker Kevin McCarthy's deal for ending the debt limit crisis, and Bishop was front and center. (Plenty on the left hate that deal too. As one activist said, "I'm sorry, but 'it could have been worse' just doesn't do it for me any more!") “This is a career-defining vote for every Republican,” Bishop said. “Many more need to emerge [in opposition] if there is any path to salvaging what we began as a unified conference .… We’re prepared to stand up and take the slings and the arrows.”

Unified conference? I'm no fan of Kevin McCarthy, but Dan Bishop clearly seems to hate the guy. Bishop was one of the 20 hardcore holdouts on McCarthy's elevation to the speakership. He was quoted at one point saying he'd rather resign from Congress than see McCarthy as Speaker of the House, but he denied he ever said that. He finally voted for McCarthy on the 12th roll-call (of 15), because he was reportedly promised his own subcommittee to investigate federal law enforcement agencies, which Bishop claims have been "weaponized against Republicans."

Yesterday, at the press conference, when a reporter asked the Freedom Caucus lawmakers if any of them now supported "vacating" the speakership (Motion to Vacate, which any single congressperson can now make, with humiliation awaiting for someone), Bishop was the only Republican to raise his hand.

The temperature of Bishop's malice is what fixes my attention. Whether it's queer people or Black people or a weak fellow traveler that feels Bishop's lash -- or reporters trying to gather facts -- he consistently confuses cruelty with ideological purity. "I am vindictive; therefore, I am right." 

What should scare the plaid pants and golf shoes off the citizens: Reportedly, Bishop is aiming to run for NC Attorney General. Same report also says that Bishop has already scared off the candidacy of the Republican who was considered a frontrunner candidate -- former US Attorney Andrew Murray, who now serves as district attorney for Henderson, Polk, and Transylvania counties.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Who'll Lead the NCGOP?


John Kane, insurgent candidate
for NCGOP Chair

There's a contest going on right now that'll be fought out and settled one way or another on the second weekend of June at the Khoury Convention Center in Greensboro ... the state Republican Party Convention, where the biggest question before the delegates will be who's going to be the next Chair of the NCGOP? Behind Door Number One: current chair Michael Whatley, running for reelection with the blessings of the old Republican mainstream; Door Number Two features an extreme-MAGA ideologue, John Kane, who comes from an election-denying gene pool of some prominence.

The Daily Haymaker, a MAGA standard-bearer who knows no end of serious contempt for the rest of the world, makes the savaging of Michael Whatley a long-running and therefore tiresome replay. The most recent Haymaker headline story ("Michael Whatley: A Cheney-Kinzinger Republican") opens like this:

The current NCGOP chairman loves to talk about Donald Trump and post pictures of himself with Trump’s plane. But much of what he does and says aligns much more with Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — the two former “Republican” congressmen who colluded with Democrats on the farcical so-called “January 6 committee.”

It takes great courage and fortitude against sin, doesn't it? to sweep away every piece of evidence, including the ocular proof, as totally and unironically "farcical," but at least we know the mind-set we've waded into. Haymaker hates Michael Whatley (at least in today's blog post) because Whatley supposedly "boasted" that he had been the first Republican state leader to "condemn the mob."

Michael Whatley

But who's John Kane, you ask. John Kane is the number one son of an elder John Kane, a renown Raleigh mega-developer who was actually honored as Tar Heel of the Year in 2016. The elder Kane is also renown for raising big money for Republicans. The younger John Kane (he who would be chairman) emphasized his MAGA bona fides in an interview with Haymaker, hitting especially "election integrity," which is MAGA code for a cascade of conspiracies: "The election was stolen and we have to prevent more theft and all Democrats (and some RINOs) are suspect."

Kane also seems on-board for punishing Sen. Thom Tillis and other RINOs for snubbing MAGA orthodoxy, so if Kane wins, we might expect a purge-night with a lot of screaming.

A blow for the Haymaker crowd: Way back in January, Donald Trump endorsed Michael Whatley for reelection. That was before there was a John Kane campaign, so the Trump endorsement perhaps means only that he didn't have another choice.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Anger Lights a Fire


Nationwide, voter files have been updated and verified and the county and precinct-level data have been gathered and organized, which means that truly data-driven and meaningful analyses are emerging of what really happened last fall.

Catalist, a Democratic data analytics firm, has released "What Happened,"  and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report digs into it. Some of the data supports conventional wisdom, some not (and North Carolina seems even more an outlier from Democratic trends in other purple states). 

This particular observation about young voters may be my strongest takeaway:

After 2008, many assumed that Obama's personal connection with younger voters would transfer to the Democratic Party's candidates in subsequent elections. That didn't happen. Instead, what seems to be driving younger voters to the polls isn't love, but anger. In 2018, Donald Trump's presence in the White House was a motivating factor for these voters. In 2022, anger over the abortion decision was the most likely catalyst for turnout.

Google quotes about anger, and you'll be hard pressed to find anybody praising rage as a productive driver of action. But, hell! The Trumpists made out pretty well with it as their signal emotion, so maybe it's high time the Democrats learn to manage that boiling pot.


Credit: Carolina Forward

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Gov. Cooper Goes To the Bully Pulpit


This was our governor last Monday (May 23), calling all of us who care about public schools to rise up, git the frickin pitchforks, because the Republican extremists in the General Assembly mean to let all the little red schoolhouses fall into ruin and disappear, replaced by businesses in it for the profit. (If I had edited the text that the governor reads from a teleprompter, I would have cut it by half.)

The Republicans went ape, especially the newest one, Tricia Cotham, who dismissed the governor's appearance as "political theater." Why yes (even a blind hog finds an acorn eventually). Senate boss Phil Berger's office joined that chorus: “...meaningless publicity stunts do nothing to improve educational outcomes in our state.”

“The general public doesn’t realize the disaster that is brewing,” Cooper told the AP.

The Republicans played their trump: Cooper himself sent his own kids to private schools. So there, hypocrite.

Briana Brough took to Twitter in Cooper's defense: "OMG the pearl clutching They are so mad Cooper is using the one tool left in his toolbox (the bully pulpit) to let people know what this voucher scheme would actually do: give wealthy families a tax break while further defunding public schools. So what if Cooper sent one of his kids to private school? That's his right! There are scholarships to help people afford it. What we shouldn't do is subsidize wealthy folks (like him!) sending their kids to private school while underfunding public schools that serve everyone."

Briana Brough is a Durham activist (a founder of FlipNC) and has joined up with others (Durham Families for Every Child NC), which is hosting a teach-in on the whole Republican privatization crowd and their schemes:

This is the kind of consciousness-raising that needs to be going on across the state. Briana Brough wrote about it compellingly in a Twitter thread:

This plan would siphon $200M from public schools. It would actually DECREASE the amount the state kicks in by about $2300 for each public school kid who transfers to private. But it would INCREASE state funding for a kid currently attending private school by an average of $5000.That means the state will be spending about $138M in new expenditures to families already paying for private school. 

It will pay the same amount for kids who transfer to private schools, but will cost public schools $200M b/c the value of the voucher is < per pupil spending. So basically, half the voucher funding will go to families already wealthy enough to pay for private education. The rest will go to families wealthy enough to make up the difference between the voucher and tuition. 

The rest of us - the vast majority of families who either don't want, can't afford, or don't have a good private school option - get screwed by a budget that continues to disrespect educators and underfund our public school system in violation of the North Carolina Constitution.