North Carolina editorial roundup
Posted 4:31 p.m. Wednesday
Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
The Charlotte Observer on a prosecutor's decision not to charge police officer who fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott:
Of all the words Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray said in his news conference late Wednesday morning, none may have been truer than his first.
"We're here," Murray said, "to discuss a tragic case."
The shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott was exactly that - a tragedy for Scott's family, which has had to grapple with a sudden and very public loss. It was a tragedy, too, for Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Brentley Vinson, who fired four bullets in the heat of a moment few can imagine.
Vinson will not face criminal charges for that September shooting, Murray announced Wednesday. The officer, he said, "acted lawfully." We heard nothing that makes us disagree with the district attorney's determination.
For more than an hour Wednesday, Murray laid out the reasons for his decision, which he and 15 career prosecutors unanimously arrived at after reviewing the evidence. Murray also released his office's full report on the shooting to the public. It was a transparency and throughness that demonstrated the importance of the case to Charlotte, which was jarred by violent protests in the aftermath of the shooting.
Murray's report revealed convincing evidence that Scott not only was in possession of a gun in the minutes and moments before being confronted by police, but that he did not drop the gun despite being ordered to do so. That, in itself, presented a threat to Vinson and the other officers, and the law is clear in allowing police to determine that such threats need to be addressed, even lethally.
Attorneys for the Scott family expressed disappointment Wednesday, although they didn't explicitly dispute Murray's legal decision. They did, however, leave open the door to a civil lawsuit, with which they might pursue different questions, such as whether officers could have avoided or deescalated the confrontation that led to Scott's death. Those, too, are critical issues that the courts, and perhaps CMPD, might wrestle with in the coming days and months.
The Scott shooting has also prompted larger questions about the relationship between police and blacks in Charlotte, and about Charlotte falling short in addressing inequality in housing, jobs and education. Those issues are deep-rooted, and they were at least a part of the grievances that fueled the Scott protests in September.
City and community leaders, including the Charlotte City Council and Charlotte Mecklenburg Board of Education, have begun to address at least some of those concerns. If the city is to "build a stronger Charlotte" in the aftermath of the shooting, as it said in a statement Wednesday, leaders need to do so in concrete ways that go beyond mere talk and hand-wringing.
On Wednesday, however, one issue - and one tragedy - needed to be addressed. We hope that the Scott family - and our city - can find peace with the district attorney's conclusion.
Asheville Citizen-Times on the Affordable Care Act:
The fate of the Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare by its critics, will be an early indication of whether there is hope for healing in our nation.
Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to repeal the ACA. He said he would replace it, but didn't say what the replacement would entail. More recently, he has backed away from that pledge a bit.
The ACA is not perfect. For one thing it is convoluted, because it builds upon a health-care system that already is convoluted. For another, enrollees are facing reduced competition and higher rates. In North Carolina, for instance, Blue Cross Blue Shield is the only carrier in most counties.
These problems, however, cannot be laid solely to the ACA. North Carolina might have more competition had the state set up its own insurance exchange rather than letting Washington set one up. And a serious coverage gap would have been closed had North Carolina expanded Medicaid coverage.
Those who talk blithely about repealing the ACA show a callous lack of regard for the 21 million people who would lose their health coverage. One of those is Alison Koehler of Madison County. "I'm freaked," she said of the outlook.
"They do not know when the proposed changes will come and how hard they will be hit. I would say there is a definite increase in anxiety," said Scott Parker with Western North Carolina Community Health Services. "People signing up for Obamacare plans now are asking 'what is the use,' if they are going to take it away."
Fortunately, there is little chance of a blanket repeal. Even Trump is now saying he would retain the ban on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and the ability for parents to keep children on their policies to age 26. Members of Congress must be hearing the same things that Trump is hearing.
The House has voted repeatedly to abolish the ACA since Republicans took control in 2010, but those were symbolic votes. House members knew repeal would not get through the Senate and, if it did, Obama would veto it.
"It's really easy to say you're going to repeal it when you know the president will veto it," said Don Taylor, professor of public policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. "It will be a lot harder to actually do it."
Michael Breslin of WNC Health Insurance does not expect anything to happen in 2017. He believes that it will take at least a year to draw up a replacement plan. If Congress instead rushes ahead, Breslin has a cautionary message:
"At the end of the day, the Republican House and the Republican Senate will have to answer the question how will they address the 21 million people who have benefited from Obamacare."
The way that question is answered will go a long way toward determining whether the acrimony of the 2016 elections will be left behind with the discarded campaign signs, or whether it will become the new normal.
The News & Record of Greensboro on the North Carolina governor's race:
Roy Cooper's narrow lead over Pat McCrory in the North Carolina governor's race has doubled in the three weeks since Election Day. Protests, recounts and possible legal challenges aren't likely to change the final outcome.
The question is how long McCrory wants to delay it. His action Tuesday barring the State Board of Elections from hiring outside attorneys hints that he may keep fighting a losing battle.
The Democratic challenger's margin is nearing 10,000 votes. If he reaches that mark when all provisional and absentee ballots are tallied, McCrory won't be entitled to a statewide recount. Nor does McCrory have a right to a recount in Durham County or any other individual county. Durham election officials are confident in the accuracy of their first count, and there's no basis for anyone to question that.
Protests lodged by the Republican governor's campaign or its supporters have largely been dismissed. They've challenged votes cast by alleged felons, double voters and the dead. Virtually none of these complaints amounts to fraud, and they don't add up to a significant number.
The dead don't vote in North Carolina, but living people who vote early can have their ballots discarded if they die before Election Day. That law should be changed. Elections essentially begin when early voting opens or when voters mark absentee ballots and return them by mail.
A soldier deployed in a war zone who mails in an absentee ballot should not have his vote thrown out if he should happen to be killed in action before Election Day. Yet that can happen under current law, and the soldier can be cited as an example of "the dead voting" as if he were trying to cheat the system.
Even the N.C. Republican Party seems to accept McCrory's defeat. "It is clear that most aspects of the 2016 election are ready to be concluded," Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse said in a statement Monday night. "We thank election officials across the state for their dedication to our system, and for their best efforts to ensure an accurate count of the votes."
Indeed, the State Board of Elections and the 100 county boards — all with Republican majorities — undertook a large task with professionalism, under a microscope of public scrutiny.
Woodhouse went on to claim that "serious shortcomings ... must be addressed. These deficiencies encompass out-of-precinct voting, involve vote tallies of known felons and dead people, as well as allowing same-day registrants to vote without address verification."
Actually, these were not serious shortcomings, other than the problem of scrapping votes cast by legal voters who then died. Same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting worked fine. There was no compelling need for voters to show a photo ID. The elections were honest.
Most outcomes favored Republicans, but notably not the governor's race. Cooper seems to have won, which McCrory soon should concede.