Editorial: Sizing up candidates. Here's a guide

Posted October 9, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT

CBC Editorial: Friday, Oct. 9, 2020; Editorial #8596
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

Labels, slogans, taunts and alarm. That is what too many candidates and campaigns offer in their dialogue with voters during the 2020 elections. Do they fear giving voters opportunities to think about the critical issues facing the nation and state?  Is there some trepidation about offering up positions on what needs to be done and how best to achieve it?

Even if that is the case, that doesn’t mean voters shouldn’t demand to know where those who seek their votes stand.

Today is the last day for regular voter registration. Every vote counts. Details on how to register to vote are available here and if you miss it, there is still the opportunity for same-day registration and voting during one-stop early in-person voting, Oct. 15 through Oct. 31.

Voters – 7.3 million in North Carolina -- deserve to be fully informed when they cast ballots. Voters should know the priorities of candidates seeking their votes as well as knowing their records.

Here are some of the critical issues North Carolina faces – those voters should consider and know where candidates for statewide and legislative offices stand – before they mark their ballots.

North Carolina’s Constitution promises – as a right – every child in the state must have access to a quality education. By nearly every standard – per-student spending, teacher pay and school facilities, the state falls short. State courts, in a settlement with state education officials, have come up with a plan to begin to meet the mandate. Candidates need to tell voters where they stand on implementing the Wested Leandro settlement to give every child a “sound basic education.” Key to this is also fully reinstituting the Teaching Fellows Program; a statewide bond issue to help finance much needed school facilities; fully-fund statewide pre-K education and impose much needed transparency and accountability to the private school voucher program so taxpayers know their money is being properly used and getting promised results.

Once upon a time the legislature’s appointments to the UNC Board of Governors had to fit sets of categories to assure that there was at least an effort to represent the state’s diverse population on the board. That was abandoned and now has become little more than a source of partisan patronage for the legislature’s leadership. One-sided partisan political cronies populate the system’s presidency and the board. It is time that the governor be empowered to appoint a portion of the board to at least provide some political diversity.

For too long the General Assembly has stubbornly refused to expand Medicaid. As the state and nation suffers through the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing has revealed the need for extending health care to more than 650,000 who now lack access to affordable health care. Since the initial outbreak, there have been 225,400 positive cases, 3,730 deaths and currently 1,050 people hospitalized. Many of those – whether infected, hospitalized or fatalities – didn’t have health coverage for the care they needed. It is far past time this neglect ended.

With completion of the 2020 Census, North Carolina will begin drawing new legislative and congressional districts as mandated by the U.S. Constitution. This is supposed to assure that every voter gets representation and a voice in the U.S. House of Representatives and the legislature. That has NOT been the case, as demonstrated by the endless lawsuits and court-ordered redrawing of district lines over the last 10 years. It is past time for candidates to pledge to back non-partisan redistricting.

Once, not too long ago, North Carolina was a model for election of judges. There was no partisan designations and candidates could opt to have campaigns publicly funded. All that has been tossed aside over the last decade and our process of selecting judges has not improved for it. Judges must run expensive campaigns and are compromised as too many promise to dispense justice based on political ideology and not on the law.  Further, gerrymandering has now entered the drawing of judicial districts – further eroding citizens’ confidence in the impartiality of their courts.  It is past time to remove partisan politics from our judicial system and return to our model system for non-partisan elections and offer public funding of campaigns.

North Carolina’s tax system is out of balance. Steep cuts in corporate taxes has resulted in less revenue for critical government services and a shift of the burden of paying for those service onto those consumers. Many of those with the greatest economic challenges are forced to pay a greater share of their income than those at the upper end of the wealth scale. It is time to better balance the tax burden – and while at it assure that every North Carolinian earns a living wage by increasing the state minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The state’s prisons, those who work in them and those who are incarcerated, are suffering from neglect. It makes it even more dangerous for prison workers and inmates. Low wages have resulted in chronic understaffing. Needs to modernize facilities and equipment have not been addressed. Our prisons are a crisis waiting to explode. That is no overstatement and the needs must be addressed to assure the safety and security of those facilities and ALL those in them.

That isn’t comprehensive and we’ll likely add some more before Nov. 3 Election Day. But it’s an important scorecard to evaluate those who seek voters’ support. Know where candidate’s stand. Those who agree, they’ll earn a vote.  Those that don’t get a blank bubble beside their names.

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