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In North Carolina, Republicans are waging an all-out assault on democracy

With the disclosure that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself ordered the cyberattacks on the presidential election, Americans are waking up to threats to our democracy from overseas. But there is a simultaneous war against democracy on the home front as well, and nowhere is this more apparent than North Carolina. A month ago, voters in the Tar […]

By Matthew Chapman - December 16, 2016
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Special Session

With the disclosure that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself ordered the cyberattacks on the presidential election, Americans are waking up to threats to our democracy from overseas.

But there is a simultaneous war against democracy on the home front as well, and nowhere is this more apparent than North Carolina.

A month ago, voters in the Tar Heel State elected a Democratic governor. After a desperate attempt to steal the election, Republican incumbent Pat McCrory eventually conceded the race, saying, “I personally believe that the majority of our citizens have spoken and we now should do everything we can to support the 75th governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper.”

The Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly, however, has other plans.

The state legislature has called an unprecedented special session, where they are debating a variety of bills designed solely to strip power from the incoming Democratic administration.

Here are just some of the bills being debated in the special session:

  • A bill that would bar the governor from appointing a Democratic majority on county election boards. Under current law, the governor can appoint a majority of county election officials. In 2016, McCrory’s appointees slashed voting times and polling places; Cooper should now be able to appoint a Democratic majority to reverse these cuts. This bill, however, requires all boards to have an equal number of Republicans.
  • A bill that would require Republicans to chair the State Board of Elections during election years. Under this proposal, the chairmanship of the state board would be staggered so that a Democrat chairs the board in “odd-numbered years” and a Republican in “even-numbered years” — but all major state and federal elections take place in even-numbered years.
  • Several bills that would drastically limit the governor’s power over executive appointments. As Slate notes, one bill would require cabinet officials to be approved by the state senate, and another would reduce the number of offices that serve at the pleasure of the governor from 1,500 to 300. Yet another would strip Cooper of the power to appoint trustees to the University of North Carolina, and another would let McCrory pick the Industrial Commission Chairman before he leaves.
  • A bill that dramatically restructures the state Supreme Court. Voters also just elected a Democratic majority to the highest state court, and the legislature wants to limit their power. One bill would severely restrict the ability of litigants to ask the state Supreme Court to review cases from the appeals judges (who are mostly Republicans). It would also restore partisan registration and primaries for Supreme Court elections, which are currently nonpartisan.

It is worth noting that the current North Carolina General Assembly members were elected from massively gerrymandered districts (although recent court rulings mean that is likely to change soon). Unlike Cooper, who was elected by the whole state, the legislative districts were heavily skewed to cancel out Democratic voters. So Republicans in the General Assembly cannot even convincingly claim they have a mandate to be in office at all, much less strip the executive power of a governor elected with a clear majority of the people.

What is more, after crowds showed up at the state capitol in Raleigh to protest, peaceful demonstrators were forcibly ejected and credentialed journalists were summarily arrested:

What is happening in North Carolina is not an anomaly; it is part of a pattern. Between Donald Trump’s assaults on long-established political and diplomatic practices, and the clear evidence a foreign dictator compromised the election while a major political party knowingly stood aside for him, we are experiencing the erosion of American democracy on a scale not seen in living memory.

It is incumbent to stay engaged with and oppose the subversion of our country’s bedrock principles, not just at the federal level but at the state level, too.


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