Under the Dome

Civitas picks fight with state elections director

November 25, 2012 

A conservative group has accused state elections director Gary Bartlett of lying in a comment he made to The News & Observer. Bartlett has fired back, standing by the accuracy of his comment and characterizing the criticism is part of an ongoing effort to wrongly portray oversight of voter registration and early voting as broken.

Francis De Luca, president of the Civitas Institute, said Bartlett was painting an unclear picture while discussing a possible recount in the lieutenant governor’s race: Bartlett had said the current process allows county boards to confirm ballots are valid before votes are certified. “It gives us enough time to have safeguards, like checking to confirm the address they list is theirs by sending letters and making sure they’re not returned,” Bartlett told The N&O.

“Common sense shows that is impossible,” De Luca said in a press release. “Early voting ends Nov. 3 and the county boards canvass ballots on Nov. 16. There is no way that in the middle of their busiest time election boards mail new voters the verification letters, get them back, send a second letter to double check them, and get it back, as the law prescribes.”

In a letter, Bartlett said that the voter registration process “is not broken.” He said that fewer than 2.6 percent of same-day registrants failed the mail verification process in 2008 and less than 1 percent in the May 2010 primary election.

Barlett said Civitas appears to be preparing to lobby for a repeal of same-day registration, even though it has been “enthusiastically received by voters of both political parties and by unaffiliated voters, without facilitating participation by ineligible voters.”

He also said that after recount and protests are resolved, he will invite the Civitas Institiute to meet with the staff of the state Board of Elections.

Court of Appeals holds cases

There’s an unexpected reshuffling of the calendar at the state Court of Appeals. All of the hearings that were scheduled for this week have been postponed, to be re-scheduled later.

It’s apparently because Judge Cressie Thigpen lost his bid for re-election this month and can’t take on new cases. He was the only judge among the three incumbents running who lost. Thigpen will be replaced by Chris Dillon in January.

Some attorneys are upset because the cancelations force them to reshuffle cases that are already on track.

Longtime utility advocate, 91, dies

Edward Brandt Hipp, a longtime Raleigh resident who served on the N.C. Utilities Commission for 12 years, died Monday, Nov. 19, in Greensboro. He was 91.

Hipp is survived by his three children – Edward Brandt Hipp Jr., Donna Horton and Ellen Smith. His wife of 60 years, Dorothy, predeceased him.

During World War II while serving in Germany, Hipp was permanently injured, and was awarded a Silver Star. He returned to North Carolina and earned a bachelor’s degree at Davidson College and a law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“To come home and have such a major lifestyle change with the injury, he was always very grateful to have made it,” said his daughter Ellen Smith. “Very few people realized he could not use his right arm. ... He was really a behind-the-scenes man. He didn’t do anything with the purpose of taking the limelight.”

In 1976, Hipp successfully argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the state Utilities Commission. Smith said the family never even knew of the case until they went through papers in the attic.

His career on the Utilities Commission spanned controversial and rapidly changing times for utilities, including turmoil in electric rates caused by the Arab oil embargo in the early 1970s and its impact on fuel prices and the break-up of the Bell system, according to a 1989 story about Hipp in The News & Observer.

At his retirement ceremony, Hipp echoed a traditional Chinese saying: “I think we have lived in interesting times,” he said. “But there are more interesting times ahead. I envy you that will stay with this work, and I will try and stay in touch with it as the years go on.”

Staff writers Austin Baird and Craig Jarvis

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