One corner of the world of “dark money” just got a little brighter, and it doesn’t bode well for the 2016 election. A recent tax filing by Carolina Rising, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, shows that in 2014 the group spent $4.7 million on ads that had one thing in common: touting the legislative accomplishments of Thom Tillis, who was then North Carolina’s speaker of the House. That year, Mr. Tillis also happened to be trying to unseat Kay Hagan, the incumbent Democratic senator. Carolina Rising spent the money in a three-month blitz leading up to Election Day, but we may never learn where these millions came from. The partial disclosure required of 501(c)(4) outfits means that while we do know that 98.7 percent of the group’s revenue came from a single donor and that virtually every penny of it was used to further the cause of Mr. Tillis’s campaign, we don’t know who Carolina Rising’s secret benefactor was.
North Carolina Republicans cheered the come-from-behind victory of their U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis, but they’ve been relatively silent about their overwhelming success in the state’s congressional districts. Perhaps they’re sheepish about how they arranged the big win. They should be. Republicans won the General Assembly in 2010 and with it the right to redraw the state’s election districts. They, like the Democrats before them, drew the lines to make a majority of districts tilt in their favor. But they overdid it. The results from the 2014 general election look more like an indictment of Republican manipulation of the election process than an endorsement of Republican policies. More than 2.7 million votes were cast in the Senate race, with Tillis beating U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan by fewer than 47,000 votes, or less than 2 percent of the vote. That statewide result would suggest an almost even split between Republicans and Democrats, but the political competition evaporates in the congressional districts.
A federal judge will now have to decide whether North Carolina’s new voting law is so onerous on black voters that it needs to be blocked before the upcoming November elections. That’s the central question after a four-day hearing in U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem ended Thursday afternoon. National and local voting-rights activists are closely watching the case. U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder said in court that he would issue a written decision at a later date, noting it would be “sooner rather than later,” given the urgency of the matter. State attorneys argued Thursday that the law was not discriminatory and that it gave everyone an equal opportunity to vote. Opponents disagree. The hearing featured about three days of testimony from state officials, Democratic legislators, experts and blacks voters who said they would be burdened by voting changes that Republicans legislators passed in 2013. The law, known as the Voting Information Verification Act and referred to in the hearing as House Bill 589, would reduce early voting from 17 days to 10, eliminate same-day voter registration, prohibit county elections officials from counting ballots cast by voters in the correct county but wrong precinct and get rid of pre-registration by 16- and 17-year-olds.
The legal challenge to North Carolina’s voter ID law goes before a federal judge Monday, as the fight over whether the law suppresses minority votes flares up in the state’s U.S. Senate race. Opponents of the law, including Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, contend that the identification requirement and other new voting laws create an obstacle for blacks, Hispanics and women to reach the ballot box. The support of the same voter blocs are crucial to Mrs. Hagan’s strategy to win in November against Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis. The lawsuit, brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and others, seeks an injunction against the law for the 2014 election. A hearing is scheduled Monday before U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder in Winston-Salem. Mrs. Hagan, meanwhile, will be angling to use the court hearing to vilify Mr. Tillis and rally Democratic voters.
There is something incongruent and deeply troubling with the notion of a World War II veteran, someone who risked his life to protect the rights that all Americans cherish, being denied the power of his vote because he voted absentee and then died before Election Day. Regardless of the intent of the law that allowed a citizen to challenge the vote of Everette Harris and have it nullified, it is wrong and the General Assembly should change it. The injustice was made worse by the fact that Harris’ family was not contacted and allowed to argue against the challenge made to the Forsyth County Board of Elections by two voters. The board unanimously agreed to sustain the challenge. “There is a principle at work here that is extremely disappointing,” Harris’ son, Mark Harris, who ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for the right to challenge U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, told the Journal’s Meghann Evans.
North Carolina’s restrictive new voting law was in effect for the first time in Tuesday’s primary election. And there were plenty of signs that the law could make it harder to cast a ballot for many in the Tar Heel State. Tuesday’s off-year election wasn’t a good test of the law’s impact because turnout among Democrats—who are likely to be most affected by the restrictions—was tiny. Additionally, the law’s most high-profile provision, a photo ID requirement, won’t go into effect until 2016. Still, there was ample cause for concern about the law’s effect on future elections, when turnout will be higher. Two such races to keep an eye on include this fall’s U.S. Senate race, when Kay Hagan, the Democratic incumbent, faces Republican Thom Tillis, and 2016, when Gov. Pat McCrory will stand for re-election, and the state figures to once again be a presidential battleground.
On a recent weekday night in central North Carolina, about 20 people, mostly African-American senior citizens, gathered in a neighborhood church. After an opening hymn, a congregant walked to the lectern and asked all to bow their heads. “As we listen to each speaker tonight,” she said, “we ask for better understanding of how to fulfill our right to vote.” The evening’s order of business was to educate people about the complexities of the state’s new voting law, enacted in August by the Republican governor and GOP-controlled legislature. Tomorrow’s primary elections, in which voters will choose local officials as well as nominees for congressional races, will be the first time North Carolina voters go to the polls since the law’s passage. Though Tuesday’s voting is unlikely to provide a significant test of the new law — turnout is typically low in midterm elections — voting-rights advocates are keeping an eye on provisions, such as curtailed early voting and the end of same-day registration, that they say will disproportionately affect poor, working-class and African-American voters. (The best-known element of the new law, requiring voters to show government-issued identification at polling places, is not scheduled to go into effect until 2016.)
North Carolina: Voting rights advocates say they’ll monitor precincts to see how law is being implemented | Associated Press
During Tuesday’s primary elections for one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races in the country, voter advocacy groups will be trying to gauge the effects of a new state law that requires photo IDS at the polls, reduces the number of early-voting days, and eliminates same-day registration. Eight Republican candidates are competing to be the candidate who will challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan in November. The contest is an important one for the GOP, which is trying to regain control of the U.S. Senate in this year’s midterm elections — and it is the first election in North Carolina held since the elections overhaul took effect. Several provisions of the new law are being challenged in at least four federal and state lawsuits. A key part of the law — requiring voters to show photo IDs — won’t start until 2016, although voters Tuesday will be asked if they have photo IDs. If they don’t, they can still vote, but will be asked to sign an acknowledgment of the ID requirements and will be given information on how to obtain a photo ID, in some cases for free.
Last month, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) sent a letter to the Department of Justice practically begging them to review her state’s new voter ID law, which elections experts believe will insidiously impact voters of color, elders, college students and many women. Her appeal to the Attorney General comes as she vies for re-election in 2014, one of 33 Senators whose seats will be up for grabs. Until this year, much of North Carolina was protected by the Voting Rights Act because of a history of voter discrimination. Under VRA’s Section Five, 40 of the state’s 100 counties were subject to preclearance, meaning officials there had to submit any proposed elections changes to the Justice Department or a federal court to determine if racial discrimination might result. Since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the preclearance coverage formula this summer, the state is no longer subject to those federal reviews. Then North Carolina’s Republican-controlled General Assembly passed the Voter Information Verification Act, to Sen. Hagan’s consternation.
U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat expected to face a tough battle to retain her seat in 2014, on Tuesday asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review a restrictive new state voting law championed by Republicans that she said will undermine the right to vote in her state. In a letter to Holder, Hagan said she was “deeply concerned” that the new law, which includes a requirement that voters bring photo identification to the polls, will deny voting rights to minorities, young people, the elderly and the poor. “Protecting the fundamental right of our citizens to vote should be among the federal government’s highest priorities,” Hagan wrote. On Monday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed into law sweeping new election reforms, making his the first state to enact new restrictions since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down parts of a Civil Rights-era law designed to protect minority voters.
On the campus of AB Tech students are trickling back for the fall semester. Beyond the looming, marathon study sessions and exams is concern over a new requirement of the Voter I.D. bill signed into law Monday. Students now have to show a government I.D. to vote. “It kind of doesn’t make sense at all, actually,” said Takidra Young. Young’s college doesn’t count even though AB Tech is a state-run college. “I disagree with that,” said AB Tech student Brock Thurber. Just because it’s an inconvenience to the student.” Said Young, “it doesn’t make sense because you have to use a government I.D. to get the student I.D. anyway.”