Tuesday, December 08, 2015

North Carolina Democrats I Think I Could Do Without

The Buncombe County Board of Elections.
Photo by Mountain Xpress
I'm about to get medieval on a North Carolina Democratic office-holder, so you may want to avert your eyes or call in a SWAT team on my ass or enroll me behind my back in a mental health intervention plan.

Lucy Smith is the Democratic Party's minority member on the Buncombe County Board of Elections, and yesterday she voted with the two Republicans on that board to reduce Buncombe's Early Voting hours during the upcoming March primary by almost 40%.

What really got under my skin is this passage from the Asheville Citizen-Times story about the vote:
Democratic board member Lucy Smith said she hopes there won't be problems "and everything will go smoothly."
She hopes. Everything should go "smoothly," she thinks. (Surprised she didn't use that favorite term of the Republican vote-suppressors: efficiently!) Lucy Smith hopes there "won't be problems."

Why on earth would there be problems ... with a new highly restrictive voter photo I.D. law coming into effect in the March primary (unless a Federal judge puts a stop to it) and with her board of elections under the control of a Republican Party that has made voter suppression and additional hurdles to voting the hallmark of their entire regime?

A local Board of Elections cannot reduce Early Voting hours without a majority vote by the local board, and we're hearing that Democratic minority members across the state are just inclined to "go along to get along" when these plans suddenly pop up in their meetings, or else -- God help us! -- they actively participate in the slitting of our throats.

It grieves me deeply to continue reading about Democratic members of boards of elections who want to be friends with the enemy more than they want open, free, and fair elections.

It isn't just the elimination of Early Voting. There's a wider menu of voter suppression efforts going on statewide at this very minute. Remember when the Republicans on the Watauga BOE, (the late) Luke Eggers and Bill Aceto, suddenly decided that the three Boone precincts should be consolidated into one mega-precinct? Our local Democratic member of the BOE protested, and that decision was overturned by Kim Strach, Exec Dir of the state BOE. Well, sports fans, the consolidation of precincts is going on in other counties all over the state, especially in precincts with large African-American populations or other demographic groups considered unhealthy for Republican prospects.

Those consolidations have often slipped right on through with Democratic board member acquiescence. Under current conditions, acquiescence is not a healthy lifestyle choice.

Orange County recently reduced Early Voting hours and eliminated Sunday voting. Do you think the Democratic member of that Board of Elections voted "no" on that? Well, no. The reason, as I've heard it expressed, was that the minority Democrat wanted to be "collegial" and because the state BOE would ultimately go along with the Republican plan anyway, so what was the use? Yeah, I love that kind of reasoning: "We're gonna lose anyway, so why put up a fight?" That is truly a loser philosophy, and I want nothing whatsoever to do with such as that. Those sorts of Democrats would have given up the Alamo on the second morning of the siege (after baking the Mexican army a "friendship cake" the night before).

The point is that voter suppression and extra hurdles to voting should be fought tooth and nail, my children, at every level, every single time, or else what's the point of being a Democrat? What's the point of being an American? What's the freakin' point of even being alive?

Democrats like Lucy Smith apparently think they're living in a parallel universe where being cooperative, or acting "nice," or being "collegial" will be an antidote to the meanness and nastiness and undemocratic impulses of our Republican overlords. Puh-lease. We either get into this game with everything we've got, or we watch voter suppression win the election in 2016 for Governor Squishy. And for all those Right-Wing hard bodies in the General Assembly.

Just as a reminder: No county Early Voting plan can be put into effect without a unanimous vote. Democratic BOE members do not have to vote for plans that reduce hours, move polling sites away from population centers, eliminate Sunday voting, or change anything else that has in the past encouraged voter participation rather than putting up barriers. With no unanimous vote, the minority member may submit his/her own Early Voting implementation plan to the state BOE. Without putting that highly partisan Republican majority on the state BOE under pressure to do the right thing, how can we ever expect them to do the right thing? Or expect a judge to step in with an equitable order?

In 2014, when Watauga County's Democratic member of the BOE did not vote for the Eggers/Aceto Early Voting plan, and after the state BOE rubber-stamped that plan, we sued the state BOE and we won an Early Voting site in the AppState Student Union. The senior judge of the Wake County superior court called what the Watauga BOE and the state BOE did "unconstitutional" infringement on the rights of a whole class of voters.

We would never have gotten that decision and that reversal of policy without voting "no" and without submitting an alternative Early Voting plan to the state BOE.

Lucy Smith had better either wake up and smell that perking coffee, or she should resign in favor of someone else who'll fight for what democracy we have left in this woe-begone state.


Vicki Boyer said...

You are right. If every Dem Board of Elections member voted No on early vote plans, it would force the State BOE to review every county's plan. That would take a lot of time and cause the state board a whole lot of trouble.

gercohenJoMC712 said...

Orange County analysis incorrect. Orange County early voting was NOT reduced. Same number of hours as 2012 and expanded from five sites to six. It's also not true that Sunday voting in Orange County was eliminated, because Orange County has never had Sunday voting. - Gerry

J.W. Williamson said...

You're right, Gerry. I was misremembering Vicki's account of the Orange County BOE meeting in which the board denied appeals to include Sunday voting. The point still stands: the Democratic board member voted ultimately with the two Republicans, so there was left no avenue for appeal or filing of an alternate Early Voting plan.

Brother Doc said...

WHY are Dems a day late and a dollar short when up against the concerted efforts of the Reps to undermine fair voting in NC? Is there no party leadership? The party that was out of power for 100 years or whatever it was had time to hone their skills, plot their revenge, develop an agenda, and now has enacted what they wanted. Where is the drive of the Dems to get back in control?

Gerry Cohen said...

Good news today. Mecklenburg INCREASED early voting from 723 hours in the 2012 primary to 1224 for this March, expanded from 9 to 17 sites, and added Sunday voting which they did NOT have in the 2012 presidential primary http://vt.ncsbe.gov/OS_Sites/OSVotingSiteList.aspx?County=MECKLENBURG&Election=03/15/2016