The people of North Carolina should be worried for their democracy. The following is from an excerpt from the article, Law and Disorder in North Carolina, by Barry Yeoman, a freelance journalist in Durham, North Carolina, who was writing for the American Prospect. Take a look:
North Carolina’s civil-rights and good-government groups are preparing for the special session. In recent years, they’ve been tested by battles over gerrymandering and the voting-law overhaul. Now they’re focusing on the courts and will hold a rally and lobbying day—on January 10.
“North Carolina is a test case,” says Melissa Price Kromm, director of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, one of the organizations sponsoring the rally-lobby day. “If North Carolina succeeds in allowing legislators to cherry-pick judges, it will spread like a disease across this country. North Carolina has to draw a line in the sand to say, ‘No, we are here to protect our institutions of democracy; we are here to protect our courts.’”
The following is from the article Reality Check: Buncombe County judges speak up about judicial redistricting. Take a look:
State legislators will go back into session in three weeks, and changes to the judicial system could be up for discussion. The house passed a bill in October that redistricts the state’s judiciary. The bill now sits in the senate, and a committee discussed it on Dec. 13.
Currently, Buncombe County has one district attorney, one sheriff, one courthouse, and one judicial district. House Bill 717 changes that by creating two judicial electoral districts for Buncombe County. “It feels like there’s an assault on the judicial branch right now,” Buncombe County District Judge Susan Dotson-Smith said.
North Carolina also has no working state board of elections. From the article NC Board of Elections’ Absence Creating Headaches All Over the State. Take a look:
The State of North Carolina has now gone a half-year without a state board of elections and it’s heading into 2018 with no sign that a board will be in place any time soon. That absence of a state board is starting to show itself in multiple ways – and the problems are only mounting as time goes on.
During the last election on Tuesday, Nov. 7, problems arose that the state board would normally have addressed, leaving election officials in something of a quandary; and, in the aftermath of that election, there are lingering disputes – some of which require the state elections board to adjudicate them. However, since there is no board, those disputes are being handed over to Wake County Superior Court.
Also, with no state elections board in place, there’s no one to certify the winners of multijurisdictional seats across the state – races that cross county borders, such as the High Point mayor’s race. Nor is there a state elections board to certify new voting machines. Some counties will see their existing machines decertified at midnight, Dec. 31.
Statewide redistricting plans are also being challenged by the federal government. Take a look at the article titled, Plaintiffs’ lawyers object to expert in N.C. redistricting case:
Lawyers for 31 voters suing Republican legislative leaders over racially biased election districts are questioning the other side’s plan for a California political scientist and demographer to testify at a hearing next month. They argue that redistricting consultant Douglas Johnson of Glendale, Calif., should not be allowed to take the stand on Jan. 5 because he has not met a basic, federal requirement that such expert witnesses must file a report in advance covering “all opinions the witness will express and the basis and reasons for them.”
Finally, the following is about planned pro-reform protests from the article Voting rights advocates plan ‘citizen action day’ at legislature for fair courts. Take a look:
Lawmakers who return Jan. 10 for a special session will be met by voting rights advocates and members of the public planning to make their voices heard in the fight for fair courts. Judicial reform has been at the forefront of a power battle that’s been brewing all year. Republican lawmakers have implemented a slew of changes to the state courts and are now considering new ways to select judges, whether it be through judicial redistricting or in the form of a merit selection plan, which would require public approval.
It’s unclear whether any plans for judicial selection reform will materialize but the North Carolina NAACP, North Carolina Voters For Clean Elections, Democracy North Carolina and Progress NC are planning a day of action to bring attention to the issues.