Thursday, September 29, 2016

Watauga GOP Slapped With $14K Fine by SBOE

For bad bookkeeping, going back in some instances to 2009 ... failures to provide employment/employer information, failures to provide addresses of donors, and prohibited cash transactions.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Mr. Sniffle Britches

Okay, this is childish and petty, but if Donald J. Trump had not denied the mucus-slurping and then upped the ante by suggesting a microphone conspiracy against him on Fox News, we might have been able to resist.

But, you know, childish and petty is in our wheelhouse!

Hattip: Wonkette.

She Got Game!

Photo Chuck Burton
Deborah Ross has broken out in a big way, both in-state in her race to unseat Dick Burr in the U.S. Senate and nationally, where she's attracting enthusiastic write-ups, like this one.

Ross was the keynote speaker at the 2015 Watauga Democratic Party Fall Rally. She energized that large crowd with both her out-going and infectious personality and with her grasp of policy. Many attended that rally last year because there was speculation that Ross would make her announcement  in Boone for the U.S. Senate. Several other candidates were already announced (Ross would end up running against three men in last March's primary), but we couldn't quite talk her into making history while she was in Boone.

A couple of weeks later, she was in the Senate race. We like to think that Watauga Democrats helped build a push for her. Watauga certainly did its part in the March primary, giving Ross over 72% of the vote.

She's making tracks. She's pulled even with Sen. Burr. In at least one poll, she's ahead of him. So much will depend on the turn-out of the demographic groups that have been consistently targeted for voter suppression by our Republican overlords ... particularly young people. If they push back against the voter suppression and get themselves to early voting, Deborah Ross could be our new senator in Washington.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Liveblogging the Debate

Lester Holt: No applauding, no cheering, no audible reactions of any kind. Yeah, let's see how that works out for you, Les.

9:03 Here we go!

Hillary in fire-engine red.

9:05 First q: Achieving prosperity ... jobs. Income inequality, despite several years of improving conditions.

Hillary: raise the minimum wage. Equal pay for women. Investment in national infrastructure. Paid family leave. Wealthy pay fair share. Close corporate loopholes.

Trump: Jobs fleeing the country. China, bad. Mexico, sucking our jobs. Leaving ... leaving ... leaving, the jobs. He's said "leaving" now at least six times. Does Trump have post-nasal drip?

Hillary: reward work and not just investment. Trump is talking "Trumped-up trickle-down." "Donald was very fortunate in his life" ... given $14 million by his father.

Lester follows up with Trump: How are you going to bring back 25 million manufacturing jobs.

Trump: Already riled about Hillary's saying his father gave him $14 million. It was, according to Trump, "a small amount of money."

Trump as chivalrous knight: Is it all right to call you "Secretary Clinton?" I want you to be happy. Very important to me.

Lester pressing on the question: How do you bring back 25 million jobs.

Trump isn't going to answer. He can't answer. Just stop businesses from leaving. That's Trump's answer.

"That's called business, by the way," Trump interrupts Hillary's recitation of Donald gloating over the housing crisis in 2008.

Hillary is boring in on Trump's past statements. He interrupts her again about clean energy, denying he said what he said.

20 minutes in, and it looks increasingly likely that Trump is gonna blow! Insult comic Trump showed up tonight.

Hillary: "Donald, I know you live in your own reality." About Trump's rendition of recent history as regards trade deals, especially NAFTA.

Lester Holt has already lost control of this. Trump filibustering.

Hillary: Raise taxes on the wealthy since they've been the only ones to benefit from the economy's turn-around.

9:26 Lester Holt finally gets to ask the second question. Mr. Trump, please defend your plan for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Trump comes out as defender of the wealthy who have hidden their cash in off-shore accounts. Wow.

Trump the bully. He's in da house!

Hillary talking about "the Trump loophole." Trump can't stop interrupting her. Hillary: I don't think top-down works in America. We don't need more advantages for those at the top.

Trump: We're in a big, fat ugly bubble. I believe it's his ego.

9:31 Lester Holt: Mr. Trump, you haven't released your tax returns. Trump's answer is all over the place. He goes back onto trade. Lester presses in on the tax return. Trump: I will release them as soon as the audit is over. As soon as she releases her emails, I'll release my tax returns. Some in crowd cheer.

Hillary: You've just seen another example of bait and switch. Maybe he's not as he says he is. Maybe he's not as charitable as he says he is. Or maybe he doesn't want the American people to know he hasn't paid any federal income taxes. There's something he's hiding.

Trump: Loves the smell of hidden emails! I'm extremely under leveraged, Trump says. What's he talking about? I could give you a list of banks, if that would help you. (No, that wouldn't help that much!) Suddenly, he's talking about how terrible American airports are. Dubai has better airports.

Hillary: If your main claim for the presidency is your business experience, then perhaps we ought to talk about that. We have an architect in the audience who designed one of your buildings, and he didn't get paid. Trump: Maybe he did a bad job. Hillary continues to bring it about Trump's business history.

Trump: We used certain laws that were there to take advantage of people by not paying them by our taking bankruptcy. Yes, he really admitted it.

9:44 Lester Holt: Let's talk about race. How do you heal the divide?

Hillary: Respect on both sides. Criminal justice reform. Guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. Restore trust between communities and the people.

Trump: She doesn't want to use the words "law and order." (Richard Nixon just sat up in his grave.) He's talking about being endorsed by police assn. And now about how bad cities are. You walk down the street and you get shot. Apparently, he's not talking about black men being shot by police. Stop-and-frisk works very well, says Donald.

Lester: Stop-and-frisk ruled unconstitutional in New York. Trump: No you're wrong. Cue the fact-checkers! Trump: You have to have stop-and-frisk. We need law-and-order!

Hillary: It's really unfortunate that Donald paints such a dire picture of black communities in our nation. Stop-and-frisk was found to be unconstitutional. Plus it was ineffective. Crime is actually down. It's just a fact that if you're a young black man and you do the same thing as a young white man, you're more likely to be arrested, charged, and jailed for it. I believe that implicit bias is true of all of us, not just the police.

Trump agrees with Hillary about denying guns to people on no-fly lists.

Hillary: I think he just accused me of preparing for this debate. Yes, I did. I'll tell you something else I prepared for: being president.

9:59 Lester Holt: Birtherism. Trump deflecting everything back on to Sidney Blumenthal. Trump: I think I did a good job. I got him to produce the birth certificate. So the racist attack on Obama was a good deed! Now we know. This is Trump at his worst -- exposed and incapable of producing a rational answer.

Hillary: He has a long record of engaging in racist behavior. The birther lie was a very hurtful one.

Trump seems to be admitting that he got successfully sued for racial discrimination but successfully slipped away without damage.

10:05  Cyber attacks

Hillary: Russia, and Donald has praised Putin for hacking us. We're not going to sit idly by and allow state actors to go after our commerce, our culture, our political parties.

Trump has sort of slumped at this point, He's low energy now. The old Interrupter, Bully Trump seems to have gone to sleep. Or at least deflated to a significant degree.

Trump gets revved up again over whether he favored the Iraq War. He's rambling. "Nobody's called Sean Hannity."

Trump: "I've got much better temperament than Secretary Clinton." People in audience groan.

Hillary: Donald's cavalier attitude. Yes, we see that.

10:27: Last segment. Thank Gawd!

What is Trump talking about ... Iran ... China ... North Korea. China should invade North Korea? Word salad!

Trump now telling us that he planned to say something "extremely rough" about Hillary and her family, but I decided I wouldn't.

Holt: Mr. Trump, will you accept the outcome of the election as the will of the people? Trump doesn't answer, goes off on one of his tangents. Finally says he'll support her if she's elected. Whew! Dodged that bullet!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

31 Ways of Looking Like a Jerk

He said a supportive crowd chanted, “Let him speak!” when a black pastor in Flint, Mich., asked Mr. Trump not to give a political speech in the church.
There were no such chants.
“I was against going into the war in Iraq.”
This is not getting any truer with repetition. He never publicly expressed opposition to the war before it began, and he made supportive remarks to Howard Stern.
He said any supportive comments he made about the Iraq war came “long before” the war began.
He expressed support for the war in September 2002, when Congress was debating whether to authorize military action.
He said he had publicly opposed the Iraq war in an Esquire interview “pretty quickly after the war started.”
The Esquire interview appeared in the August 2004 edition, 17 months after the war began.
Before the Iraq invasion, he said, he had told the Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto something “pretty close” to: “Don’t go in, and don’t make the mistake of going in.”
Not remotely close. He told Mr. Cavuto that President George W. Bush had to take decisive action.
He said that when Howard Stern asked him about Iraq in 2002, it was “the first time the word Iraq was ever mentioned to me.”
Mr. Trump expressed alarm about Saddam Hussein and the situation in Iraq in 2000 in his own book.

“You see what’s happening with my poll numbers with African-Americans. They’re going, like, high.”
Polls show him winning virtually no support from African-Americans.
“Almost, it seems, everybody agrees” with his position on immigration.
Most Americans oppose his signature positions on immigration.
He has made “a lot of progress” with Hispanic and black voters, and “you see that in the polls.
No major poll has shown him making up significant ground with black or Hispanic voters.
He was “never a fan” of Colin Powell.
In his book “The America We Deserve,” he named Mr. Powell as among the “best and brightest”in American society.
Mr. Trump said that after The Times published an article scrutinizing his relationships with women, “All the women came out and said they think Donald Trump is terrific.”
Only one woman who was quoted in the article came to his defense after its publication.
“Unlike other people” who only raise money for themselves during presidential campaigns, he also raises money for the Republican Party.
Every presidential nominee forms a joint fund-raising agreement to share money with his or her national party.
In the primaries, Mr. Kasich “won one and, by the way, didn’t win it by much — that was Ohio.”
Mr. Kasich crushed him in Ohio, winning by 11 percentage points.
Lester Holt, the NBC anchor and debate moderator, “is a Democrat.”
Mr. Holt is a registered Republican, New York City records show.
The presidential debate moderators “are all Democrats.” “It’s a very unfair system.”
Only one, Chris Wallace of Fox News, is a registered Democrat.
He said it “hasn’t been reported” that Mrs. Clinton called some Trump supporters “deplorable.”
It would be difficult to find a news organization that didn’t report her remark.
“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it.”
Mrs. Clinton and her campaign never publicly questioned President Obama’s birthplace; Mr. Trump made it his signature cause for five years.
Mrs. Clinton had “the power and the duty” to stop the release of unauthorized immigrants whose home countries would not accept their deportation after they were released from prison.
The secretary of state does not have the power to detain convicted criminals after they have served their sentences, and has little power to make foreign countries accept deportees.
Mrs. Clinton has not criticized jihadists and foreign governments that oppress and kill women, gay people and non-Muslims. “Has Hillary Clinton ever called people who support these practices deplorable and irredeemable? No.”
She has denounced jihadists and foreign countries on the same grounds, if not necessarily using the same words.
“Do people notice Hillary is copying my airplane rallies — she puts the plane behind her like I have been doing from the beginning.” 
He did not invent the tarmac rally or the campaign-plane backdrop.
Mrs. Clinton destroyed 13 smartphones with a hammer while she was secretary of state.
An aide told the F.B.I. of only two occasions in which phones were destroyed with a hammer.
He said Mrs. Clinton is calling for “total amnesty in the first 100 days,” including “a virtual end to immigration enforcement” and for unauthorized immigrants to receive Social Security and Medicare.
She has not proposed this.
Mrs. Clinton is “effectively proposing to abolish the borders around the country.”
She is not even proposing to cut funding for the Border Patrol.
“Hillary Clinton’s plan would bring in 620,000 refugees in her first term alone,” and would cost $400 billion.
She endorsed admitting 65,000 Syrian refugees this year, on top of other admissions. Mr. Trump is falsely claiming that she wants to do this every year and is estimating the cost accordingly.
“Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before — ever, ever, ever.”
No measurement supports this characterization of black America.
Fifty-eight percent of black youth are not working.
This misleading statistic counts high school students as out of work. Black youth unemployment actually was 20.6 percent in July.
Many dangerous refugees are being welcomed by the Obama administration. “Hundreds of thousands of people are being approved to pour into the country. We have no idea who they are.”
The Obama administration has admitted more than 10,000 Syrian refugees, using an extensive screening process.
“We have cities that are far more dangerous than Afghanistan.”
No American city resembles a war zone, though crime has risen lately in some, like Chicago. Urban violence has fallen precipitously over the past 25 years.
Ford plans to cut American jobs by relocating small-car production to Mexico, and may move all production outside the United States.
Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive, said it was not cutting American jobs.
“We have a trade deficit this year with China of approximately $500 billion.”
He has made this claim repeatedly, but the trade deficit with China is significantly smaller.
Senator Bernie Sanders fell victim to “a rigged system with the superdelegates.
Mr. Sanders did not lose the Democratic nomination because of superdelegates. Mrs. Clinton beat him in pledged delegates, too.

Friday, September 23, 2016

"Don't-Believe-Your-Lying-Eyes" Quote of the Week

Anne Marie Yates, Chair of the Watauga County Board of Elections, on the sorts of people she looks for to appoint to the local Board of Elections (quoted by the Watauga Democrat):
“I look first for people who can do the job, and have the time to do it,” Yates said. “Then I look for discerning people, and people who have proven themselves to be fair and equitable and not overly partisan.”

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Number 194 and Number 972

194: Keith Lamont Scott was the 194th black man killed by police this year. Charlotte has erupted over his death.

972: NC House Bill 972, passed and signed by the governor this past summer, prevents the release of police body-cam footage without a court order.

That ridiculous law comes into full focus because of the killing of Keith Lamont Scott. The officer who shot Scott was not wearing a body-cam. According to reports, it is Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department policy that all police officers should be wearing a body-cam during an arrest. Why wasn't the shooting officer?

HB972 comes into focus right now, even though it isn't in effect until October 1, precisely because of an incident like the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. According to the Charlotte Observer, Scott's family today is being shown body-cam and dash-cam footage taken from other police officers on the scene. If HB972 were in effect, it would take a court order to see that footage.

Why would the Republicans in the NC General Assembly pass such a law, and why would the governor sign it? McCrory took pen in hand to sign HB972 and said he was balancing "public trust" with "the rights and safety of police officers." The governor said the new law will promote "uniformity, clarity and transparency." No, he really said that.

We believe that the law will promote precisely the opposite of "clarity and transparency," though, yes, perhaps it will give total "uniformity" to future police cover-ups.

We await reports of what the other body-cams show about this shooting. In the meantime, we ruminate on where our Republican masters have taken and continue to take this state.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Republican County Commissioners Come Unglued

Stella Anderson, the lone Democrat on the Watauga Board of Elections (BOE), appeared before the County Commission last night and requested that Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four") be relieved of his duty as counsel to the BOE and that another attorney be found to advise the board. Anderson's reasons included the thoroughly partisan nature of Four Eggers' involvement with the BOE and a pattern of misrepresentation or manipulation of election law for partisan Republican advantage.

The Republicans on the Commish starting yelling, particularly the two Republicans up for reelection, Perry Yates and David Blust. The bottom-line: These guys want everyone to know that they're perfectly happy with the activities of Four Eggers, and they intend to cling to him, even as the ship goes down.

Commissioner Perry Yates accused Anderson of impugning Four Eggers' reputation. I believe the Winston-Salem Journal, in a front-page investigation in 2013, beat Anderson to that punch. As did the revelation of emails between Four Eggers and then State Board of Elections member Paul Foley, which revealed the behind-the-scenes scheming and manipulation of the county attorney.

Commissioner David Blust was all righteous indignation: I have never tried to suppress the votes of anyone! But for the record, here he is, on video, telling AppState students directly that he did not think they had any right to vote in local elections, in which he was running at the time:

Since our county government intends to protect Four Eggers at all costs, it will take the voters to change county government, at which point Four Eggers will be history.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Gov. Squishy, Melting Under the Heat Lamp

"He’s so unsure of himself that he plants his own questions and runs from the media at a crucial time."
--Taylor Batten, Charlotte Observer, describing Gov. McCrory's cowardly performance at a Charlotte lunch event
What happened? This:

At a luncheon where he was supposed to take questions from the audience, Gov. McCrory instead insisted on written questions only, except that unbeknownst to the audience, his staff was slipping in their own pre-written softballs that McCrory wanted to answer. He got caught, too.

Taylor Batten of the Charlotte Observer stood up and tried to ask an actual unsanctioned question about HB2, but The Guv cut him off, saying that he'd already answered three questions from the Charlotte Observer. Only those three questions weren't from the Charlotte Observer. They were planted by The Guv himself.

"I think you guys dominate the news enough,” McCrory said to Batten, thus doubling down on the lie that the governor was being open and honest. McCrory had started off the Q and A with this: "Ask anything you like. No filter here.”

If McCrory wasn't totally pathetic, his dishonesty would be really funny.

Read more here:

Friday, September 16, 2016

Republican Self-Evaluation of the Day

Rep. Gary Pendleton (R-Wake County), on the likelihood that the NC General Assembly might repeal some of HB2: “Some people are so far out there on the right that they don’t care.”

Just how brave is this Rep. Pendleton? He took an excused absence when HB2 was voted on and admits his cowardice: “When I saw it was coming up, I didn’t go to the session,” he said. “I wasn’t going to go down there and get harassed and harassed and harassed to vote for something I just didn’t want to vote for.”

I'm a coward, but those other Republicans are crazy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


The only way we get rid of Bill Aceto and Nancy Owen on the Watauga County Board of Elections is to elect Roy Cooper as governor.

The only way we get rid of Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four") as county attorney is to change the County Commission.

Below is the visible result of the latest Four Eggers directive to Aceto and Owen about the BOE:

Four advised his Republican puppets that they could legally cancel a regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the BOE. Raleigh experts in election law say he's wrong. The general counsel for the SBOE so far has remained silent.

When has Four Eggers been right? He was wrong about combining all the Boone precincts into one "super precinct." He was wrong about disenfranchising ASU students, first, by ordering no Early Voting site at all on the ASU campus in 2014, which Judge Stephens in Wake County slapped down as unconstitutional, and then he was wrong for pushing Aceto to choose Legends as the early voting site for the 2016 primary, which the SBOE slapped down in February, and then again he was wrong for insisting on Legends for this fall's election, which the chancellor slapped down yesterday. 

He was wrong about the SBOE's having jurisdiction over early voting in Watauga and was the laughing stock among lawyers last Thursday in Raleigh for even suggesting it.

He was wrong to get his own brother appointed chair of the Watauga BOE. He was wrong to run  both the BOE, via his brother, while also serving as county attorney. He was wrong to serve as attorney for both Watauga and the Town of Beech Mountain and to enter those parties into a notorious water deal that got slapped down by the County Commission after the citizens protested.

Aceto and Owen should be removed from office for failure to do their job and for intentional discrimination against a class of voters. Four Eggers should be fired for manipulating Aceto and Owen and for casting a pall of corruption over Watauga County for the last four years.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Aceto & Owen Boycott Their Own Meeting

At 5 p.m. today, Democrat Stella Anderson was at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Watauga Board of Elections, while Chair Bill Aceto and other Republican Nancy Owen boycotted. Now they're not doing their job at all ... out of spite? because the ASU Chancellor had just announced that the Student Union would be an Early Voting site.

Photo by Garrett Price, Watauga Democrat

The Guv, HB2, and the NCAA

"The poster boy for a law he didn’t write."
--Thomas Mills
But he signed it, and he's based his reelection on defending it.

Remember, remember the 8th of November!
We'll end the stupidity at last.
I know of no reason
Why the craziest season
Shouldn't become a part of our past.
The NCAA has made a choice to take its business out of a state that passed a law that discriminates against transgender people. Just as Gov. Pat McCrory made a choice to sign that law without --presumably and upon evidence -- having read it.

The NC GOP, under the ineffable leadership of Dallas Woodhouse, has leapt to attack the NCAA in a most unhinged way. NC GOP spokeswoman, the ineffable Kami Mueller, actually wrote and put this out as representing the views of ostensibly rational people:
“This is so absurd it’s almost comical. I genuinely look forward to the NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams. Under the NCAA’s logic, colleges should make cheerleaders and football players share bathrooms, showers and hotel rooms. This decision is an assault to female athletes across the nation. If you are unwilling to have women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, how do you have a women’s team?”
Can you follow the logic? Because the NCAA opposes discrimination against transgender people, it must perforce be in favor of turning college sports into the shower scene from StarShip Troopers.

The ineffable Kami Mueller continued:
“I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor. Perhaps the NCAA should stop with their political peacocking — and instead focus their energies on making sure our nation’s collegiate athletes are safe, both on and off the field.” 
And there you have it: the conflation of transgender rights with the rape of females by males, known or unknown. Mueller is saying “the NCAA is not perfect, and therefore they can’t object to our discriminatory law.”

That's a logical fallacy. And unhinged.

Bill Aceto's Newest Letter to Chancellor Everts

Thanks to the Watauga Democrat for publishing on its site the three-pager signed by Bill Aceto, which reaches new heights of unintentional irony:

1. First paragraph misrepresents the motion that the State Board of Elections voted on, which was this:
“Move that we adopt the plan I will refer to as the Bill Aceto Plan with the following caveats: if the Chairman of the Watauga County Board of Elections cannot secure in writing from the Chancellor, or Counsel to the Chancellor, permission by the Appalachian State University to use the Legends site within five calendar days [making the deadline Tuesday, Sept. 13, 5 p.m.], then Plemmons Student Union will automatically be used. Further: If permission cannot be obtained from ASU within 5 days -- written permission by the Chancellor, or Counsel to the Chancellor, to the Chairman of the Watauga County Board of Elections -- then Plemmons Student Union will be substituted in all places where the Aceto Plan calls for ASU Legends.”
2. "tremendous partisan pressure" -- Since Aceto holds all the reins of power RE ballot access in Watauga County, I guess that would make him an expert on that particular subject.

3.  The Molly Hundley opinion. She spoke against the Student Union as an Early Voting site as though someone were forcing her to use that site. No one was (or is) forcing her.

4. Ha! He quotes at length a comment by "Mike D" posted on this blog. (Ah, shucks!) He does not put into his letter to Everts an anonymous comment in response to "Mike D," which I think is an appropriate response:
Anonymous said...
Mike D., you have really jumped the shark this time. What a load of fantastical crap ... "shadowy doorways" ... "speak-easy or an unlicensed physician or a fortune teller." Good lord, man. You're straining for crazy comparisons to prop up an indefensible attempt to make voting more difficult for ASU students. Just be honest about it. You and Aceto are perfectly willing to reduce the numbers of student voters to protect your favored office-holders or promote your favorite office-seekers.
 5. Aceto once again attacks former Watauga elections director Jane Anne Hodges, implying that her destruction of electioneering complaints is the reason no electioneering complaints exist (other than Anne Marie Yates' purely partisan comments): "Many of the written complaints regarding this site [Student Union] were not maintained by the previous county elections director, but the absence of these reports does not mean they do not exist." If there's one thing I've learned from Judge Judy, their absence does mean that they don't exist.

6. "the uncompromising insistence by Ms. Anderson" -- Is the uncompromising pot calling the uncompromising kettle black?

7. "desire to gain partisan advantage through a site" -- As opposed to your desire to gain partisan advantage through a site as far away from the center of student life as you can lawfully place it and still be on the campus?

8. "To yield to the very vocal and insistent demands of partisan activists demanding the Student Union site would make you the instrument of those partisan activists." Did Aceto just call Chancellor Everts a "tool"? I believe he did.

Those of us who have been fighting Bill Aceto and his boss Four Eggers and Four Eggers's baby brother Luke Eggers for over three long years to ensure fair and free elections in Watauga County know a tool when we see one. Judge Stephens of the Wake Superior Court could also recognize intentional discrimination, and that's why Bill Aceto is so desperate that he would sign such a nasty letter (whether he wrote it or not).

Monday, September 12, 2016

Aceto Suddenly Cancels BOE Meeting Scheduled for Tomorrow

Regular meeting of the Watauga County Board of Elections was scheduled long ago as "a regular monthly meeting," and it happened to coincide with the deadline set by state BOE for Aceto to get agreement from ASU Chancellor Sheri Everts for use of Legends for early voting ... or else early voting to default to Plemmons Student Union.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

What Happened to Early Voting in NC, and Why

The three Republicans on the North Carolina State Board of Elections (SBOE) had a job to do on Thursday -- all day and well into the night -- and they by Gawd did it.

Their mandated job is "to ensure that elections are conducted lawfully and fairly," and on Thursday, they had one-third of NC's 100 counties before them, with "minority members" (Democrats all) claiming that in all those 33 counties, the Republican majority wasn't being fair and might very likely be acting unlawfully, according to various court decisions.

However, the mandated SBOE job description -- fair and lawful elections -- was the 98-lb. weakling next to the real heavy-weight: saving Governor Pat McCrory's ass in the upcoming election (while also incidentally avoiding further embarrassing litigation -- a challenging path to tread).

I was not charmed by the SBOE on Thursday. I invested 20 waking hours in that odd enterprise, and I feel I have a chip on my shoulder for a good reason.

The hearing room at the SBOE holds 100. I asked about it. They told me: 100. With 33 counties to be heard, you might think that someone would do some basic math. Let's see … 33 counties. Each county has 3 board members. All 3 probably won't come, but still … 2 at least. With maybe the Director of Elections from each county -- and there were many there -- and perhaps a lawyer or two and the many TV and print journos who were guaranteed to be there (they were, including a blogger or two, and many lawyers).

I tapped the SBOE on the shoulder, so to speak, and I said, "Uh. The room is already pretty much at capacity, and you haven't let in any of the general public. Where would anyone not a county official or a lawyer sit?" Because we weren't officials, they made us line up outside in the parking lot in the hot sun, and then in groups of five we got to go in and stand two-deep along the walls.

In other words, the meetingplace itself was a hostile act. There's ample precedent for the SBOE to move big meetings to larger venues. I recall one in particular we attended in 2014 in a fancy motel's ballroom -- one of several times the SBOE heard a case from Watauga -- and it was a hell of a lot easier to get to that fancy motel than to the Raleigh SBOE offices, on N. Harrington Street, somewhere near Peace Street, if you turn on West Street … located in a kind of urban desert of empty buildings, weed-grown sidewalks, forlorn warehouses.

And have I mentioned no Wifi?

Associated Press reporter Gary Robertson summed up the SBOE's performance on Thursday as "a measured approach." I totally get that choice of words -- "measured approach." MarkBinker detailed the numbers: there were 20-something bipartisan votes and "only" seven party-line votes. But how that "measured" up depended on what county you were from, what race you were, whether you were from a poor county or a flush county. (When did the right to vote depend so much on whether your county could afford to let you vote?)

George Frink (@gwfrink3) tweeted that the SBOE was "pussyfooting" on Thursday. Stealthy, moving silently, but always exploring with those paws what might be grabbed and played with. IMO they axed ballot access where they thought they could get away with it and granted it to avoid a lawsuit.

Gerry Cohen, who has been described as NC's "invaluable elections law supercomputer" (by Mark Ezzell), commented to me at the lunch break that the Republicans were "lawsuit averse." Yes, but out of the blur of the many party-line 3-2 votes that decided various county fates, I expect a lawsuit -- or two or three or even four.

Dallas Woodhouse, in the Flesh
The Republican three-person majority did their decision-making in full view of Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state GOP who sent the notorious memo about eliminating Sunday voting (among other topics). Woodhouse arrived late to the 10 a.m. start time of the hearing and sailed himself into a prominent seat in the front row that had a "RESERVED" sign pasted to it. How did he rate that?

The Players

Joshua Malcolm, Democratic member.
Malcolm was the star of the marathon, the most active member of the board in questioning the county officials, the most aggressive member in challenging the abundant nonsense we all heard, and the most constructive in trying his dead-level best to compromise with his Republican colleagues. (If Binker's numbers are right, there were 20-some bipartisan votes largely thanks to Malcolm.) The indefatigable Vicki Vars Boyer (@vickitkd) described him as "the workhorse on the board … conversant with details, numbers, percentages." He had actually read the many pages of proposed early voting plans, from Republican and Democrat alike, and he was conversant with the supporting data. No surprise, he asked penetrating questions, always remained a model of politeness and even temper … though he could be sharp and very direct, and he two or three times delivered withering commentary. He's a master of using the honorific "sir" to great effect.

With Dallas Woodhouse sitting in the front row, Malcolm took the opportunity to note for the record that he had received no phone call, no email, no text, or any other piece of "partisan pressure" from anyone in the Democratic Party. Republican James Baker immediately piped up and said that neither had he, and he tried to joke that he felt a little bit left out. Republicans A. Grant Whitney and Rhonda Amoroso were noticeably silent. Did they enjoy seeing Woodhouse, currently the most notorious Republican operative in the state -- about which the SBOE has suffered sufficient grief -- sitting there in all his hair-gelled and loud-sock glory?

One of Malcolm's sharper moments occurred during the Mecklenburg County case. The Republican member from Mecklenburg who attended, Elizabeth M. McDowell, laid down a base-line series of accusations against early voting in Mecklenburg that seemed frankly unhinged. She asked the SBOE members to "prevent voters from being used by both parties." Seriously. She talked about people with dementia being dragged into the booth to vote by suspicious persons unknown and about the victimization of the elderly, and…

"Are you serious?" Malcolm interrupted.

McDowell, suddenly on the defensive: "I have reports of these things happening."

Malcolm: "Did you witness these things?"

McDowell: "Well, no, but I have reports."

From then on, McDowell's credibility was toast. Who on the SBOE would volunteer to be associated with that?

Another memorable Malcolm moment: The Craven County majority Republican plan was presented and advocated by the (supposedly impartial and non-partisan) elections director, and Malcolm had cautionary words: It's maybe not a great idea for a supposedly impartial and non-partisan elections director to be so actively pushing the election druthers of one party over the other. Plus the Craven director had done none of the statistical and data-driven analysis of voter histories and habits that Malcolm reminded her were statutorily required.

Maja Kricker, Democratic member.
Kricker, 2nd from left
The other members of the SBOE sometimes can't conceal their impatience with Dr. Kricker -- she's slow to speak, and when she begins to speak, you're not sure she's ever going to reach the end of the sentence, and she's perhaps technologically challenged -- but I find her endearing, and for all her quirky mannerisms, she can penetrate to the marrow of an issue (if sometimes by a circuitous route).

She announced her battlefield position at the beginning of Thursday's long hearing: I am determined to vote for more ballot access, not less, she said. Which meant that she was often on the losing end of 3-2 party-line votes, where the Republicans took what opportunities were afforded them to limit early voting.

Kricker was consistently a champion for extended evening hours for the benefit of working folks and would not usually budge on Sunday voting, especially if a particular county had already enjoyed Sunday voting in the past.

James L. Baker, Republican member.
Baker appeared to be reading the materials for the first time on the fly on his iPad and therefore appeared also to be a half- to a full-step behind some of the time.

Baker presents as a kindly old man with everyone's best interest at heart, but his angling to get in line with the other Republicans was obvious. I couldn't always follow his logic. Sometimes, while listening to him go down yet another rabbithole, I flashed on the old stand-up comic, Dr. Irwin Corey, "the world's foremost authority" who would wander around the stage pontificating on whatever came into his head.

Maybe that's too harsh, and I'm reacting to the others' addressing him as "Judge." He was sober but too often dogmatic. He hatched a kind of judicial test -- that if a county had never before had Sunday voting, then it probably couldn't ever have it because it never had it before, see? Baker's Razor, Catch-22 of the day. Even when a county like Craven, that had enjoyed Sunday voting in 2012, at a rate of 95 votes per hour, and then had it taken away in 2014, Baker thought that was justified by the money saved.

The Craven County case featured a Robert Rules of Order trainwreck. Malcolm moved to amend the Republican majority plan for Craven to remove one Saturday of early voting and substitute two Sundays, with voting from 1-4 p.m. Before that motion could be voted on, Judge Baker announced that if Malcolm's motion failed, he would put forth his own motion thus and so, concluding with just one Sunday of voting. With effectively two motions on the floor, and with the opportunity to put the axe in at least some Sunday voting, the Republicans voted down Malcolm and approved Baker.

Malcolm warned that this vote was an obvious "disservice" to Craven County, and Craven moves to Number One on my list of potential lawsuits.

Rhonda K. Amoroso, Republican member.
Transparently and predictably partisan in every vote she takes. She's the cruel step-mother of the SBOE. During the Craven County two-motions-on-the-floor-at-once fiasco, she lectured the Democratic petitioner and her lawyer: "If you can't find a time to early vote, you can vote by mail," Then she practically yelled, "There was only one day to vote when I was a kid!"

You ungrateful swine!

It seemed clear that attorney Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four") -- or someone equally impressive -- may have gotten to Amoroso on Watauga County's behalf. (Paul Foley used to be Four's inside man, but Foley was forced to resign almost two years ago.) Amoroso announced that she had done surveillance in Boone (I believe those were her exact words) and had been amazed at how convenient and obvious was the location of Legends -- looked fine to her, driving by. She didn't go inside. But it looked good from outside. "I couldn't find the Student Union," Amoroso added, darkly.

She also said, over her shoulder to the SBOE lawyers, "Can't we command Legends?" and then we from Watauga knew what was supposed to have gone down. Amoroso was determined, coming in, to approve Aceto's "plan" (I always put the word in quotation marks, because it's a half-page memo, with a footnote to an old plan that he has always preferred.) To Amoroso, Aceto's half-page memo, missing facts and figures of any kind, was cue enough to act.

She lectured Anderson about not going along with the majority. She hadn't read Anderson's submitted plan, and if she had read anything more that the staff-written synopsis, by that time of the day, data was dead to Amoroso. Her mission: secure Legends.

"Can't we command it?" Under state law, legally, a local BOE can simply take -- "command" -- a public, tax-supported building as a polling place, but there are clear limits to that power. Commanding Legends would violate at least one of those limits. The SBOE lawyer answered Amoroso, in short "no."

Legends is stillpending until next Tuesday at 5 p.m.

A. Grant Whitney, Republican Chair.
Whitney said as little as possible. He asked few questions. He ran the meeting, set the agenda, said very little, but grumpily complained about some people droning on and on (not, however, the Republican member from Hoke County, who rambled endlessly down weird paths that never seemed to get to a destination). Having been a gruff, but mainly non-verbal railroad conductor with no discernible opinions, Whitney would vote partyline every chance he got.

One of those votes in particular -- the Wake County vote -- was 3-2, but with a different alignment: Malcolm, Kricker, and Judge Baker voted "aye." Amoroso and Whitney voted no. Judge Baker went with the Democrats and saved Wake County. (Some of us who witnessed it still half-way believe that Judge Baker expected the other two Republicans to vote with him. He didn't make that mistake again.)

Think about it: Amoroso and Whitney had voted to limit the first week of early voting in Wake County to one single, downtown site (Wake is the most populous county in number of registered voters in the entire state), which would mean that some 70,000 projected early voters in Wake during the first week of voting would be forced to go to downtown Raleigh -- where free parking is limited to the spiritual realm and parking for hire can rarely be got, not even for ready money.

In other words, chairman Whitney (not to forget Amoroso) pulled down his pants, figuratively speaking, and mooned Wake County. Wow.

Whitney did it after participating not -- or participating very little -- in the discussion. His vote seemed unwarranted -- a cold-cocking, a blind-siding, a kind of ambush. I can understand why Whitney made a beeline for the exit at 10 p.m. and wouldn't do an interview with WRAL: "I have to go meet someone."

Other Highlights Lowlights
The Republican Chair of Randolph County, Bill McAnulty, stood there and told the SBOE that he had originally approved an early voting plan with Sunday voting, but when word got out and he became a villain to fellow Republicans, and a traitor to the party, he changed his vote to no Sunday voting. Do the words "arbitrary and capricious" spring to mind? Randolph County is Number Two on my possible lawsuit list.

Professor Irwin Corey
On Facebook, someone from Randolph County said it was McAnulty's wife who raised hell with him, and that's all it took. Apparently, Mrs. McAnulty is too religious to vote on Sunday and doesn't think anybody else should either.

The Democratic member from Cumberland County offered a comment that McAnulty might appreciate: "You have to be very partisan to get this job, and then you have to be non-partisan to make everyone happy."

At the close of the meeting, with Whitney making a quick exit, Malcolm was maintaining a rosy disposition, considering the circumstances: "I think today what you witnessed was, to a pretty good extent, a bipartisan board doing its best to interpret and make a good faith effort to comply with the law and especially the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals."