The Follies (of two widening scandals in Raleigh)

By: - August 19, 2016 12:12 pm

FF-819BMore national outrage about NC GOP voter suppression efforts

The controversy swirling around the efforts of the North Carolina Republican Party to make it more difficult for African-Americans to vote went national this week, with stories around the country about the memo by NC GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse urging support for local elections boards to restricting access to early voting.

The move is a startling attempt by Republicans to defy the intent of the recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that struck down the massive voter suppression law passed by the General Assembly in 2013 and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory.

The court found that legislative leaders asked for data about how people vote, broken down by race, and then changed the voting methods used disproportionately by African-Americans.  The intent could not have been clearer.

Supporters of the voter suppression law, including McCrory, have yet to explain why legislators needed the breakdown by race of which voting methods people used. That’s because there is no explanation other than they were trying to suppress the African-American vote.

The General Assembly, with McCrory’s endorsement, imposed a photo ID requirement at the polls, ended same day registration, reduced the number of days for early voting, and ended pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds.

The court decision throwing out most of the law said lawmakers used “surgical precision” to target minority voters and now those same offensive efforts have moved to local elections boards, many of which are refusing to allow early voting on Sunday or declining to locate early voting sites in minority neighborhoods or on college campuses.

Many local boards are also considering only having one site open for the seven days of early voting that the law eliminated and the decision by the 4th Circuit restored.

Mecklenburg County Board of Elections Chair Mary Potter Summa openly declared a recent meeting that she is “not a fan of early voting.”

Woodhouse’s memo, called a smoking gun by one prominent national news site, raises the profile of the voter suppression effort and makes it a campaign issue that might effect this fall’s elections.

It also lays bare the motivation of the NC GOP, the General Assembly, and Gov. McCrory.

They are doing all they can to make it harder for African-Americans to vote. That is clear in ruling of the 4th Circuit and in the outrageous and undemocratic decisions being made by Republican boards of elections.

More startling allegations against McCrory Administration in drinking water scandal

And the voting rights controversy is not the only problem for the McCrory Administration these days. The scandal of the administration’s role in overruling a state toxicologist who wanted to warn people living near leaking coal ash ponds about their drinking water continues to expand.

North Carolina Health News this week talked to former state epidemiologist Megan Davies who resigned in protest after top state officials attacked state toxicologist Ken Rudo in an editorial and mischaracterized how the state handled his assertion that residents should be warned about their drinking water.

Davies told Rose Hoban of N.C. Health News that state health director Randall Williams and other key administration officials “were willing to completely undermine the credibility of the entire public health system in North Carolina in order to protect whatever it was they were protecting, the chance of reelection I guess.”

She also called the decision by Williams to sign the editorial criticizing Rudo and misleading the public about the decision not to issue drinking water warnings “an execution-style shooting” for members of the Division of Public Health.

Hoban reports that DHHS spokeswoman Kendra Gerlach said the Department of Health and Human Services had the “highest confidence” in Williams. It’s not clear who she means by the Department, because the state epidemiologist just resigned from her $188,000 a year position to protest the way Williams and other McCrory Administration appointees are handling the water safety issue.

Rudo’s allegation first surfaced in a deposition in a lawsuit filed by a coalition of environmental groups. One of them, the Southern Environmental Law Center, recently served notices of depositions for Thomas Stith, Gov. McCrory’s chief of staff and his communications director Josh Ellis.

DHHS Communications Director Kendra Gerlach may also have to testify under oath.

Stay tuned. There are likely more bombshells to come in this ever-widening scandal.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066