SHORT SESSION ENDS ON RACIAL NOTE
BY CASH MICHAELS OF THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL
Some have criticized it for its haste and keeping important legislation close to the vest, then springing it at the last minute with “nary” a hearing or debate. Other have criticized the 2018 NC Legislative Short Session for trying to codify long held agenda items Republicans could not pass as N. C. statute without the courts getting involved into the State Constitution.
However, one thing for certain, many observers note, is that Republican legislative leaders continued not to be friendly to North Carolina’s African-American community.
First, the State House passed changes to the early voting law, inexplicably eliminating the last Saturday before Election Day, and requiring all early voting sites to remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., effectively forcing many counties not to open as many because of lack of volunteer staffing.
Eliminating the last early voting Saturday was seen as a direct slap in the face to African-American voters because it traditionally is the most popular early voting day for them to come out.
Only after the bill was sent over to the State Senate did cooler heads realize that it might be too easy for a court to see what the House had done and that the last early voting Saturday was restored. After the House has finally complied, the law goes into effect this October.
Black Democrats in both the House and the Senate fought mightily against the constitutional amendment, placing voters to approve voter ID, details to be filled in later.
The 2013 voter ID law passed by the Republican led General Assembly was struck down in 2016 in federal court as being directed towards suppressing the Black vote with “almost surgical precision,” but that didn’t keep Republicans from passing this referendum question for the November elections, hoping that, if citizens say “yes,” lawmakers can come back on November 27 in Special Session and design another voter ID law to their liking.
On Friday, both the State House and Senate went into special joint session to decide which of Gov. Roy Cooper’s nominations as Special Superior Court judges they would confirm.
Gov. Cooper nominated three, a White male, a White female, and Bryan Beatty, an African-American, who has previously served as a commissioner on the NC Utilities for ten years, director of the State Bureau of Investigation, and secretary of the State Dept. of Crime Control and Public Safety.
Beatty had appeared before three different legislative committees and, sources say, was never negatively reviewed once, never faced any opposition.
Republican lawmakers, who hold the majority, voted Bryan Beatty’s nomination down without explanation.
“This is yet another instance of Republicans working to inject partisan politics into our courts,’ said Ford Porter, Gov. Cooper press spokesman, noting that GOP lawmakers had no problem confirming Republican Former Gov. Pat McCrory’s staffer, Andrew Heath, as a Special Superior Court judge before he left office.
And finally, Republicans allegedly “…hung fliers around the General Assembly…with the names and faces of [three] prominent African-American judges and attacked them by name, “ according to Robert Howard, Communications Director for the NC Democratic Party.
Indeed, a picture of the flier shows 12 current and former NC judges, three of them Black.
Current Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1) is pictured, with the caption noting that former Gov. Mike Easley appointed him to the NC Supreme Court in Feb. 2001, as well as a Superior Court judge. The flier also shows Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier, who was appointed by Gov. Easley in 2017, and current US Fourth Circuit Judge James A. Wynn Jr., who was first appointed by Gov. Hunt to the NC Supreme Court in 1998, then appointed to the NC Court of Appeals in 1999.
The title of the flier – “WHEN GOVERNORS IGNORE THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE.” All of the judges and former judges on the flier were once appointed by Democratic NC governors.
The NC Republican Party was asked to comment on the flier, but no comment was forthcoming by deadline.