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Amid Pandemic Chaos, Burr And Graham Stand Out

North Carolina is never content playing second fiddle to any other state, for good or ill. Of course, that would be the case during a pandemic and its aftermath. A partial list: Any politicians out there being accused of taking advantage for personal gain? Check. Questions on how states will accommodate voters skittish about choosing between their health and their right to cast a ballot? Check. Fights over expanding Medicaid after a health crisis forces a hard look at who can and cannot count on insurance coverage? Check.

Oh, and a touch of Franklin Graham as a hero with reservations. Our state never disappoints.

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Dead Gerrymander Expert Haunts North Carolina GOP

North Carolina Republicans lied to a federal judge about how they rigged state elections, according to new court documents.

Common Cause, a voting rights group, is suing the state’s Republican lawmakers for creating gerrymandered legislative maps, made by contorting district lines to favor their party. The group previously sued the lawmakers for the same reason for maps drawn in 2011, and they won, but now they’re contending that the newly drawn lines are also gerrymandered. The case is set to go to trial on July 15.

The gerrymandered district lines, both from 2011 and the most recent, were drawn by Thomas Hofeller, a recently deceased, formerly prolific GOP election rigger, who also helped Trump’s efforts to rig the U.S. census. In a new filing Thursday, it was revealed that Hofeller helped shape more than 90 percent of the state’s newly gerrymandered maps by June 2017. That matters because Republicans told the court in July 2017 that no new maps had been created by that time, a clear lie.

And that wasn’t the GOP’s only lie to the court.

Hofeller apparently used data on voters’ racial demographics when creating the new lines, something North Carolina Republicans were forbidden to do by the court. Using that type of data, districts can be gerrymandered to diminish the representation and voting power of minority groups.

“Whether it’s rigging the census for partisan gain or manipulating voting maps for the same, that’s wrong and destructive to our democracy,” Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said in a statement.

North Carolina Republicans seem pretty desperate to do everything they can to rig district lines, even if it means lying and breaking the law. But other attempts by Republicans to gerrymander haven’t held up well in courts. In 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down that state’s partisan congressional gerrymander that was favored, and drawn, by Republicans. In the following November election, the party lost three of its 12 seats. Ohio’s Republican-drawn congressional map was also recently struck down.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

IMAGE: North Carolina voters protest state district gerrymander by Republican legislative leaders in 2018.

After Gun Massacre, Charlotte Is ‘One Of Those Cities’

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — “Now we’re one of those schools.” That’s what a University of North Carolina student, in more sadness than anger, told a local radio station after a gunman killed two and wounded four others on her campus last Tuesday. And now Charlotte, a city already experiencing a spike in homicides, is “one of those cities.”

In the city and state, there is shock, plus questions. A suspect is in custody, but that doesn’t provide answers about why it happened and what can be done to keep it from happening again.

That this latest incident did not make it to the top spot in many national news outlets speaks to how commonplace such incidents have become and how frustrated many citizens are. Is the answer more mental health resources, more “good guys with guns,” more regulations and background checks, or something else?

Against this backdrop, the National Rifle Association is undergoing shakeups of its own, with warring leaders (chief executive Wayne LaPierre has won that fight with former president Oliver North), a sprawling mission that now includes NRATV taking stands on issues such as immigration and race as often as guns, and a looming investigation of its finances and nonprofit status by the New York attorney general.

But despite that, expect its GOP politicking and power plays to remain, as the presence of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as speakers at the NRA’s recent annual meeting makes clear. The organization’s new president, Carolyn Meadows, lives in Georgia’s 6th District, where Democrat Lucy McBath won in 2018 with a campaign that included support of some gun control measures, and Meadows has promised to support McBath’s opponent.

As usual, Americans looking for reassurance, or at least a discussion and some compromise, won’t get very much of either in a debate that will only grow more politically charged in an election season, especially with parties increasingly divided so evenly into opposite camps.

Several Democratic presidential hopefuls have made the issue their signature, including former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was in office in July 2012 when a gunman in a movie theater killed 12 people and wounded many others. After that incident, Hickenlooper shepherded gun control legislation, including background checks, in the state. Rep. Eric Swalwell also centered the issue in his campaign rollout, saying the Second Amendment does allow for gun control measures.

Sen. Kamala Harris, further up than either in most polls, has said that as president she would sign an executive order that includes regulations for gun manufacturers and restrictions for gun dealers, since legislation proposed in one chamber of Congress has little hope of passing in the other.

In North Carolina, where this latest school shooting has left many in shock, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is up for re-election in 2020. Last year, after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, he said that if there are breakdowns in the current process, “Then we need to talk about the next program for background checks, we need to talk about bump stocks, we need to talk about a number of other things that I think reasonable people are prepared to take action on in Congress.” Tillis, who has received support from the NRA, has also emphasized more mental health resources and has shied away from most gun control restrictions.

Debate in the North Carolina legislature mirrors the national one, with Democrats and Republicans offering dueling proposals, tightening or loosening gun restrictions, and framing the issue as a matter of freedom or safety. Republicans, who held a super-majority they lost in 2018, have filed bills that would expand gun rights, including one that keeps showing up, which would eliminate the state requirement for concealed handgun permits. In the wake of shootings, though, both sides are preaching what looks like impossible bipartisanship.

When bipartisanship fails, frustrated grassroots organizations have continued the discussion. If there is action or compromise, it will be prompted in part by groups such as the Parkland students, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, organizations named for and inspired by Gabrielle Giffords and James Brady, victims of gun violence, and citizens in neighborhoods and cities across the country touched by gun violence.

That list is growing. Tucson, Arizona, where my son was born, became one of those cities, as did the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, where friends and acquaintances lost those close to them when a murderer killed nine at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015. Shootings in schools, places of worship, in acts of domestic terrorism, in personal disputes, or because of imagined grievances unfortunately mean many more places are in danger of becoming one of those cities where no one imagined gun violence could happen.

Charlotte is now in the center of that debate, but if history is any guide, tragically it won’t be for long.

The danger is becoming numb to the unacceptable; the goal is to remind our leaders that that is not an option.

Mary C. Curtis is a columnist for Roll Call. An award-winning journalist, she has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

IMAGE: File Photo: NRA gun enthusiasts view Sig Sauer rifles at the National Rifle Association’s annual meetings and exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. on May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II


Report: Justice Department Probing North Carolina Election Fraud

The troubles are not yet over for Republicans in North Carolina’s 9th District, where state election officials nullified the 2018 midterm results and called for a new election after finding evidence that the GOP congressional candidate’s campaign engaged in rampant election fraud.

In fact, the problems for those North Carolina Republicans may just be getting started — because federal investigators are now probing the fraud, a local North Carolina television station reportedon Monday.

A grand jury has been convened, according to the report, and the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section has now issued at least three subpoenas in the case.

Those who received subpoenas include:

  • The campaign of Mark Harris, the GOP nominee in the 2018 House race.
  • McCrae Dowless, the man accused of carrying out the election fraud for Harris’ campaign. Dowless was arrested at the end of February and indicted on multiple charges related to the election fraud, which involved illegally collecting absentee ballots and either altering them or discarding them.
  • The North Carolina State Board of Elections, which is required to produce “all documents related to the investigation of election irregularities affecting counties within the 9th Congressional District.” The NCSBOE conducted its own investigation of the fraud — which led to its decision to hold new elections — and thus would have documents and evidence relevant to federal investigators.

Republicans, for their part, have mostly been silent on their party’s election fraud.

And if they haven’t been silent, they’ve been twisting the facts of the case to blame the fraud on Democrats. Of course, Democrats had nothing to do with the fact that Republicans in North Carolina tried to steal an election.

In one instance, the state Republican Party even tried to raise money off the fraud.

Now, however, Republicans will have to campaign in a new election in the 9th District under a cloud of federal investigation. We’ll soon see how they’ll try to spin that.