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Opinion Roundup: Tainted 9th District, absentee ballots, UNC student protests and more

Posted December 6, 2018 8:47 a.m. EST

Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018 -- A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: Why the case for election fraud in N.C. is strong, latest voter ID bill tries to address absentee ballots, Mecklenburg sheriff ends county's agreement with ICE, panel suggests creating mobile units for student protests, agencies get grant to promote clean energy entrepreneurship and more.


REAL VOTER FRAUD?
BRIANNA SACHS & OTILLIA STEADMAN: Inside The N.C. GOP Vote Machine, Cash, Pills — And Ballots (BuzzFeed reports) -- The allegations that Republicans tampered with absentee ballots in a close N.C. election represent the most serious federal election tampering case in years, one that allegedly stole votes from elderly black voters in the state’s rural south. Now two women intimately involved with McCrae Dowless’s absentee ballot machine have revealed to BuzzFeed News its grim and chaotic workings, in which Dowless tracked votes on yellow paper and paid his workers, including family members, from stacks of cash, and that some were on opioids while they worked.

PHILIP BUMP: Man at center of fraud probe in N.C. may have been doing this for 8 years (Washington Post reports) -- In 2010, a political operative named Leslie McCrae Dowless received a little over $7,100 to provide get-out-the-vote services for a candidate running in and around Bladen County. That candidate lost his race by about 6 points, though he won a majority of the mailed-in absentee votes. That was thanks to Bladen County. Harold “Butch” Pope earned 52 percent of the mail-in absentee vote in his district. In Bladen, he won 81 percent of the absentee vote. Without the votes from Bladen, he would have lost the absentee vote by nearly 3-to-1. Dowless is now at the center of questions about his role in a much more important contest — the race in the 9th Congressional District.

ALAN BLINDER & MICHAEL WINES: N.C. Republicans Targeted Voter Fraud. Did They Look at the Wrong Kind? (N.Y. Times reports) -- Now, with an investigation underway into potential abuse of absentee ballots in a disputed House race, North Carolina’s tangled, partisan history of voting rights and fraud is under a spotlight — and Republicans find themselves on the defensive about whether their reliance on voter identification to combat fraud focused on the wrong source of trouble.

GAIL COLLINS: N.C shows Trump gets it all wrong on voter fraud (New York Times column) -- As the midterms approached, President Donald Trump tweeted a warning that "Law enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any ILLEGAL VOTING." And what do you know? There really did seem to be a case of possible election-stealing in a congressional race in North Carolina. It involved a couple of counties with large African-American and rural populations, and the victim was the Democrat.

Hold a new election in NC’s tainted 9th District (Charlotte Observer) — There may be no way to know how widespread the fraud was, or whether it involved enough ballots to potentially change the outcome of the election — a 905-vote victory for Republican Mark Harris over Democrat Dan McCready. But we do know enough. Unless new evidence somehow clears the clouds hanging over this election, the Board of Elections should toss out the 9th District results.

HARRY ENTEN: Why the case for election fraud in N.C. is strong (CNN reports) -- The case for election fraud appears to be strong. That's because it's doesn't rely on just one or two pieces of evidence. Rather, it's a slew of evidence. This means that even if one part of the case were to fall apart, there would be still be reason to believe that the election wasn't on the level.

GARY ROBERTSON & EMERY DALESIO: News guide - Undecided N.C. congressional race (AP reports) -- A very close North Carolina congressional race still hasn't been settled almost a month after Election Day, amid an investigation into alleged absentee ballot fraud that has raised questions about the credibility of the tallied outcome.

RUSTY JACOBS: What's Needed To Call For New Election In NC’s 9th Congressional District? (WUNC-FM) -- The state elections board will hold a hearing this month on possible vote tampering in N.C.'s 9th Congressional District race. The key question is whether there's enough evidence to warrant a new election.

JASON DEBRUYN: One Man Asked For Nearly 600 Absentee Ballots In Bladen County (WUNC-FM reports) -- One man – McCrae Dowless – filed in-person requests for 592 absentee ballots at the Bladen County Board of Elections in the month's leading up to this year's midterm election. That's more than twice any other single applicant and accounts for 44 percent of the 1,341 in-person absentee ballot requests made at the Bladen County Board of Elections.

BETH REINHRD: House Democrat calls for emergency hearing on alleged election fraud in N.C. (Washington Post reports) – Gerry Connerlly, a Virginia Democratic member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is calling for an emergency hearing to examine allegations of election fraud in North Carolina’s 9th District race, in which Republican Mark Harris leads by 905 votes. State election officials are investigating charges that a political operative working for the Harris campaign oversaw a crew of workers who illegally collected mail-in absentee ballots from voters. The operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, worked primarily in Bladen County.

BRIAN MURPHY, CARLI BROSSEAU & ANNA DOUGLAS: ‘A troubled history’: Bladen County has faced five elections investigations since 2010 (Durham Herald-Sun reports) -- The investigation into voting irregularities in the 2018 election in Bladen County is, at least, fifth elections case since 2010 in the rural eastern North Carolina county facing questions in 9th District race.

TRAVIS FAIN: Congressman calls for hearings over 9th District results (WRAL-TV reports) -- Virginia Democratic Congressman Gerry Connelly: "A cloud of doubt and suspicion hangs over this election result."

ROGER CHESLEY: Indications of voter fraud in N.C. don't fit narrative of Trump, GOP (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot column) -- The 9th Congressional District probe centers on absentee votes and whether many of them were diverted.

FRANCIS WILKINSON: Election fraud, for real this time (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot column) -- Last week, as North Carolina's Board of Elections was coming to grips with what increasingly resembles a case of genuine election fraud in the state's 9th Congressional District, House Speaker Paul Ryan was talking at an event in Washington.

LEGISLATURE – OVERTIME SESSION
LAURA LESLIE & MATTHEW BURNS: House OKs voter ID rules (WRAL-TV reports) -- Legislation setting the rules for the recently approved constitutional amendment requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls is one vote away from passage after the House approved the measure Wednesday.

GARY ROBERTSON: Latest voter ID bill tries to address absentee ballots (AP reports) -- A voter photo identification bill won state House approval Wednesday, a proposal now also altered to try to improve absentee ballot security in North Carolina in light of fraud allegations in a congressional district.

LYNN BONNER: As fraud investigation continues, NC Republicans vote for absentee ballot IDs (Durham Herald-Sun reports) -- The voter ID bill that passed the NC House includes an intent to require IDs from people who vote absentee.

JAMELLE BOUIE: The lame-duck power grab (SLATE column) -- In 2012, N.C. Republicans won a “trifecta” of legislative and executive power. They used their newfound power to aggressively gerrymander the electoral map and impose new restrictions on voting. In 2016, Democrats reversed those gains, narrowly toppling incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory—and the GOP Legislature responded by stripping the incoming executive of key powers and privileges. Before Democrats took their seats, Republicans ended the governor’s control of election boards, slashed the overall number of jobs appointed by the governor from 1,500 to 300, and made Cabinet nominations subject to state Senate approval. Rather than accept the will of the voters, who empowered the new governor to take the reins of the state government, Republicans entrenched their influence and undermined gubernatorial authority in an effort to avoid and undermine democratic accountability.

ANTONIA BLUMBERG: N.C. Republicans Try To Ensure They’ll Be In Charge Of Future Elections (Huffington Post reports) -- Republicans in N.C. are attempting to push through a bill that would ensure their control over voting procedure in election years. State Rep. David Lewis (R), who chairs the elections committee, filed the bill in the state House of Representatives on Monday amid allegations of Republican-led ballot theft during the 2018 midterm elections.

COLIN CAMPBELL: Session Schedule (The Insider reports) -- The General Assembly will continue its work into next week -- meaning any last-minute vetoes from the governor could come around the holidays. "We are in a three-legged race and we can't get across the finish line unless the folks that we're tied to are getting close to it as well," Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said.

POLICY & POLITICS
KASEY CUNNINGHAM: Josh Stein takes stance against robo calls (WRAL-TV reports) -- They're relentless robots and they're always lighting up our phones, but now, North Carolina is leading the charge against robo calls.

MONICA LALIBERTE: Laws may get another look after refunds were hard to get for renters hit by Hurricane Florence (WRAL-TV reports) -- The N.C. Real Estate Commission has received more than 100 complaints from renters unable to get a refund or exchange for a vacation rental unavailable due to Hurricane Florence.

KATE MARTIN: NC grand jury indicts former guard for kicking federal inmate in face (Carolina Public Press reports) — Former Cherokee County Detention Center officer Wesley “Gage” Killian faces two misdemeanor charges of assault after a grand jury indicted him Monday. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office fired both Killian and another guard, Joshua Gunter, on May 9, nine days after they were involved in a May 2 altercation with inmate George Victor Stokes.

NC sheriff ends county's agreement with ICE (AP reports) — News outlets report that on his first day at work, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden said in a news release Wednesday that deputies will stop performing immigration duties when the agreement ends. The program allowed sheriff's deputies to perform immigration enforcement duties inside the jail with supervision from ICE.

GREG GORDON: Judge rules for Roy Cooper over law that let Pat McCrory put his stamp on agency (Charlotte Observer reports) — A Wake County judge has struck down as unconstitutional a law that authorized former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in his final days in office to name the top leaders of the agency that decides compensation for thousands of workers injured on the job. Those appointments normally would have belonged to incoming Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

FRED CLASEN-KELLY, ANNA DOUGLAS & JULIANNA RENNIE (Charlotte Observer reports) — When Mel Watt became the nation’s most powerful housing regulator, his supporters predicted that he would advocate for the working class and help homeowners still reeling from the mortgage crisis. But now, as his five-year term at the Federal Housing Finance Agency nears an end, some say the former congressman from Charlotte is partly to blame for higher rents and fewer opportunities for first-time homebuyers.

Tier 1 designation should be a wake-up call (Fayetteville Observer) — No need to shed a tear for our county’s revised tier. It may help us. Still, it was hard to be anything but startled by the news that the state’s economic rating for Cumberland County had slipped from Tier 2 to Tier 1 — the designation for NC’s most economically distressed counties. And we’re not barely a Tier 1 either — Cumberland is the 20th most economically distressed among the state’s 100 counties.

JOEL FORD: I’m a black Democrat and I backed GOP’s voter ID (Charlotte Observer column) — I’m a Democrat, and I sponsored legislation with Republicans to implement photo voter identification in NC. I have always been my own man with my own thoughts and my own opinions. Hopefully, you will – as I have – reach your own conclusion informed by your personal convictions, free from the intrusive pressures of those who wish to form your opinion for you.

WILLIAM BRADFORD: My afternoon on the tennis court with a true competitor: George H. W. Bush (Durham-Herald Sun column) — In the fall of 1985 I received a phone call from Mr. Walter Byers, executive director of the NCAA in Kansas City, Missouri, asking if I would be willing to play tennis on Jan. 13, 1986, in New Orleans during the annual NCAA meeting with then Vice-President George H.W. Bush.

EDUCATION
ANALISA SORRELLS: How can we make schools safer? North Carolinians weigh in (EdNC reports) — We heard from almost 200 North Carolinians who named a range of considerations, including increasing the number of school resource officers (SROs), adding metal detectors to school campuses, and increasing funding for school support staff. All responses were collected between Nov. 1 and Nov. 5, 2018.

College must be affordable (Winston-Salem Journal) — A recent poll that looks at education in NC came up with some conclusions that make us want to say, “Well, duh.” The results show that NC residents generally value education and think the state’s colleges and universities provide a high-quality education, but they’re also too expensive.

Making learning real: New website gives NC teachers access to business resources (Charlotte Observer reports) -- The new Navigator website provides a free online tool for North Carolina businesses to list resources they can provide to schools. Teachers can search to see which options, such as guest speakers and internships, meet their needs.

School board member: Attending Wake schools made my kids ‘anti-racist, anti-misogynist’ (Charlotte Observer reports) -- Wake County school board member Christine Kushner credits the diverse education her children received from the district’s schools with making them “anti-racist, anti-misogynist” and “anti-homophobic.” Her kids attended magnet schools.

TAMMY GRUBB & JANE STANCILL: Does UNC need more police at student protests? Panel suggests creating mobile units (Durham-Herald Sun reports) — A panel of security experts recommended this week that UNC-Chapel Hill invest in officer training and the creation of a “mobile force platoon” to respond to campus violence and civil disobedience. The panel, which was tasked with reviewing the Silent Sam Confederate statue protests, also recommended that the UNC Board of Governors create a mobile police force to respond to incidents at any campus in the UNC system.

HEALTH
TAYLOR KNOPF: New Opioid Legislation Possible Next Year (NC Health News reports) — Judges could get more discretion when sentencing drug traffickers, and state lawmakers are already talking about more funding for opioid addiction treatment programs.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
KIP TABB: Area Photographer Focuses On Storytelling (Coastal Review Online reports) — Daniel Pullen’s photographs are remarkable for their diversity: iconic images of the Hatteras Lighthouse or a fisherman on the beach early in the morning baiting his hook. There is a photo of a Jeep stuck on the beach, fantails of sand flying into the air as the driver struggles to free himself.

KAREN CHAVEZ: Western NC to get millions for land and stream protection, recreation (Asheville Citizen Times) — Western NC will see more hiking trails, added land for the Blue Ridge Parkway and state natural areas and better water quality thanks to $20.7 million in grants awarded recently through the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

Agencies get grant to promote clean energy entrepreneurship (U.S. EDA news release) -- Joules Accelerator in Charlotte is joining forces with the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster to promote cleantech entrepreneurs in North Carolina. The goal is to collaborate with universities, industries and municipalities to deliver clean energy solutions, jobs and community engagement to enhance the sustainability of our region. The project is being supported by a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Good riddance to hurricane season (Fayetteville Observer) — If more regular flooding events are in our meteorological future, we need to act now and not wait for the next deluge. Matthew and Florence — and Floyd before them — served notice that our flood plains have expanded. It’s time to dramatically improve our stormwater management systems, buy out homes and businesses most threatened by flooding, raise roads and bridges and take other preventive measures.

AND MORE…
NOAH FEIT: NC Bishop Michael Curry presided at Bush funeral; he also preached at Royal Wedding (Durham-Herald Sun reports) — Bishop Michael Curry presided over the funeral service for President George H.W. Bush Wednesday at the National Cathedral. This was the latest high-profile event that Curry has officiated. Most notable was the Royal Wedding in May, when he delivered a passionate sermon at the union of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. And, as USA Today reported, he also spoke at the September funeral of Sen. John McCain.

Wilmington loses two passionate voices of reason (Wilmington Star-News) — Harvard Jennings did not pioneer local talk radio, but he virtually came to embody it, playing host to public affairs shows on various stations for decades. Unlike the typical shock jock, he was low key. Though he had a distinct and very deliberate voice, the point wasn’t to hear him talking. Jennings was more interested in hearing what the other person had to say, even if -- one might almost say, especially if -- he disagreed with them.

James Duke, 88, Globe-Trotting Authority on Healing Plants, Is Dead (New York Times bit) -- James A. Duke, a pioneer in identifying phytochemicals, the now familiar, often beneficial chemical constituents of foods like antioxidants in oregano and flavonoids in green tea. He poured the results of his work into a 1997 book, “The Green Pharmacy: New Discoveries in Herbal Remedies for Common Diseases and Conditions From the World’s Foremost Authority on Healing Herbs,” as well as into an extensive database he compiled for the Agriculture Department. The book has sold more than 1.5 million copies, according to the publisher, Rodale Press. Dr. Duke attended UNC-Chapel Hill, where his bass playing caught the ear of Johnny Satterfield, a big-band leader who taught there. He recruited Jim Duke as a jazz bassist, on the condition that he enroll in the music program. His native love of botany kicked in, though, and from 1952 to 1960 he earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in botany at Chapel Hill. He did postdoctoral work as a professor at Washington University in St. Louis and curatorial work at the Missouri Botanical Gardens there.

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