Under Republican Leadership, ‘The Guardrails Are Off In North Carolina’

Source: Charlotte Observer

If you can’t win at the ballot box, what tactics can you use to solidify your position?

North Carolina Republicans answer: the state legislature. 

As a recent News & Observer editorial highlights, Republicans have relied on a strategic plan to dismantle democracy for decades. In North Carolina, Republicans have worked endlessly to disenfranchise voters across the state, with one judge ruling that an NCGOP voter ID law targeted “African-Americans with almost surgical precision” — making it harder for Black North Carolinians to vote. 

Discriminatory policies spearheaded by state Republicans have also targeted Democrats, low-income North Carolinians, LGBTQ youth, women’s rights, state courts, governor and attorney general powers, rural communities, among others. 

The newest unchecked power grab effort comes through the erasure of the state governor’s power to appoint members of the state board of elections, the public utilities commission, and a long list of offices.

State Republicans have also claimed control of the agency that oversees judicial ethics, select the governing board for community colleges, and choose the UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State boards of trustees, according to The N&O piece.

Experts and advocates across the state have raised concerns about Republicans passing measures in the latest state budget that lets lawmakers’ hide or destroy public records and changed the open records law to hide the Republican map-making process from voters.

“Government transparency is not a partisan issue, but it is a power issue. And N.C. Republicans currently wield immense power up and down state government,” wrote Brooks Fuller, Director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition and Assistant Professor of Journalism, in an Elon University column. “So during a last-minute, midnight-to-early morning session and amid minimal debate, they took power from the people and kept it for themselves”.

This immense, unchecked power is protected by a conservative-leaning state Supreme Court. 

Months after Republicans won a majority on the state Supreme Court in November’s election, state Republican legislature leaders asked the high court to throw out previous decisions on redistricting and voter ID.

In exchange for their fealty, state Republicans sprinkled measures in the state budget that raised the mandatory retirement age for appellate judges – benefiting the controversial N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby.

“[Chief Justice Newby] moves rewarding Republican insiders have cost the court system expertise, continuity and public confidence,” wrote Ned Barnett, associate opinion editor at The News & Observer. “Fostering partisanship at the state level is adding to an already growing national crisis in the courts”.

Currently, Justice Newby is leading an effort to investigate Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls, who spoke out against racial and gender biases within the state court system, according to a Democratic lawmaker back in September

As Professor Gene Nichol’s News & Observer editorial states, “This legislative session has brutally shown, the gas pedal is fully pressed to the floor. An end to the separation of powers in North Carolina is the open and patently embraced ambition. The list of new broken boundaries is robust”.

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