Rocky Mount Telegram: Advocacy groups rally against voter suppression and court rigging
The people of North Carolina know that an independent judiciary and fair elections are the keys to our democracy. Politicians in Raleigh have been enacting unconstitutional laws attempting to suppress the votes of young and African American voters. When those are struck down by the courts they decided to try to rig the courts in their favor so they can pass their extreme agenda without interference. This is just unfair, and undemocratic. The voters in North Carolina will send a message this fall that they won't stand for these unfair and unconstitutional tactics anymore.
NASHVILLE — State lawmakers won't return to Raleigh until May, but some Twin Counties voters are already planning how to fight perceived threats to democracy including a possible voter identification referendum and judicial gerrymandering.
Voter ID is meant to disenfranchise black voters, said Jen Jones, community director for Democracy North Carolina.
"In North Carolina, we know voter ID is harmful, unfair and unnecessary," Jones said. "Our system is accessible, fair and secure."
Jones spoke to a small crowd of voters and representatives of several advocacy groups at a voting issues town hall meeting on Wednesday night in Nashville.
In-person voter fraud is rare, Jones said, adding that since 2000, only 31 cases have been confirmed nationwide out of more than a billion ballots cast.
Voter ID is strategically meant to prevent blacks and college students — who statistically tend to vote for Democrats — from voting, according to information provided by Jones.
A number of bills have either been passed or are being considered by Republicans in the N.C. General Assembly that would wreak havoc on judicial independence in North Carolina, Jones said. One proposal would eliminate the election of judges altogether, letting legislators cherry-pick partisan judges with no oversight from voters, according to Democracy NC.
Another proposal would hyper-politicize judicial elections by forcing judges to run for re-election every two years instead of four or eight, unfairly slashing the terms of duly-elected judges and forcing them to campaign and hold political fundraisers instead of dispensing justice.
The group listed what it described as four partisan attacks on the state's court system:
■ House Bill 656, already enacted, canceled primary elections for judges and made general election ballots longer and more confusing, the first step toward canceling judicial elections altogether and letting politicians appoint judges instead of voters.
■ House Bill 717, passed by the N.C. House, gerrymanders judicial districts, just like legislative district maps that were ruled unconstitutional. Nearly half of all black judges would be packed into a district with another incumbent, forcing them to run against each other or step down.
■ Senate Bill 698, legislation introduced that would cut all judges’ terms to two years, forcing judges to campaign and hold political fundraisers instead of dispensing justice. A judge elected to an eight-year term in 2016 would be forced to run again in 2018 after having his or her term cut.
■ Proposed legislative appointment would eliminate judicial elections altogether, letting politicians rig the system by cherry-picking judges who will rule based on political ideology rather than fairness.
Groups participating in the town hall included the N.C. Voters for Clean Elections, Democracy N.C. and the NAACP.