Point of View

Gov. McCrory and his reindeer games

December 7, 2013 

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Editor's Note - This article states: "The old laws opened polls from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. for 17 days, giving us 221 hours of early voting." In fact, counties did not uniformly open early voting sites for that number of hours. The previous minimum number of hours was 105. The new early voting law chops the first week, including the first weekend; prohibits extending hours on the last Saturday beyond 1 p.m.; and tells counties to squeeze into 10 days the same number of hours they provided in 17 days. The law also allows the county board of elections, by a unanimous vote, to waive the equal-hours requirement and give voters a greatly reduced plan.

We’ll wish North Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory a Merry Christmas if we see him at a Moral Monday protest this month. We hope he will toast us with good news for the poor. But if Santa reads McCrory’s press clippings, the governor need not hang a stocking.

McCrory chucked a chestnut at NBC newsman Chuck Todd recently when asked about his bill to chop early voting from 17 days to 10. The Republican’s claim that “we didn’t shorten early voting, we compacted the calendar” displayed elfin creativity. “We’re going to have the same hours in which polls are opening in early voting and we’re going to have more polls available,” he continued. “So it’s going to be almost identical.”

The old laws opened polls from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. for 17 days, giving us 221 hours of early voting. The new bill slices seven calendar days off early voting but – thanks to an amendment added by a Democratic senator – does technically require early voting for the same number of hours.

But divide 221 hours by 10 days rather than 17. Polls will need to stay open from 6:30 a.m. until 4:30 the following morning to comply. Like the roustabout bars near oil rigs, our voting sites may close only long enough to wipe down the tables and refill the ketchups. Ask poll workers whether getting off at 4:30 a.m. seems “identical” to going home for supper. Numerous provisions in the law work to hold down turnout; a state GOP executive committee member admitted its intent was to “kick the Democrats in the butt.” Our governor sees “nothing political” here.

And then there’s McCrory’s claim that he attended our Moral Monday protests. “I go out in the crowd all the time,” he asserted. “Frankly, yesterday I went out and talked to several of them and they were not very respectful.” In fact, he said, the prayerful protesters were “cussing me out.” He never once set foot at Moral Monday. The governor’s press reps quickly retracted his fairy tale.

McCrory’s assertion that our state’s Medicaid administrative costs are “30 percent higher than other states” is similarly impressive. Ours stand among the lowest. Bent on privatizing Medicaid, McCrory needed to smear the system as “broken.” It isn’t.

McCrory’s claim to “the largest K through 12 budget in North Carolina history” may take the Christmas cake. Brutal cuts make it smaller than the 2007-08 and 2008-09 budgets, despite swollen enrollments and larger class sizes. Tell this to the thousands of teachers and teachers’ aides being fired. Best leave Santa that plate of cookies.

Two 24-year-old campaign elves landed senior state jobs making at least $85,000 a year because they were the strongest applicants, McCrory said. “They were actually moved over to areas that frankly a lot of older people applied for, too,” he explained.

There were no other applicants since the jobs were not posted. Both young men fail to meet standards for entry-level jobs at Health and Human Services, where they hold top positions. McCrory gave them 35 percent raises within three months while freezing other state workers’ salaries.

Call him what you will, McCrory lit one even larger Yule log early this year. His campaign promise not to restrict abortion was unequivocal. Yet he signed a bill that threatens to reduce the whole state to one clinic that performs abortions, to say nothing of negatively affecting family planning and gynecological care for low-income women. We don’t know whether his nose grows or merely glows, but women voters are in no mood for McCrory’s reindeer games.

But what McCrory told Todd about early voting might outrun Rudolph. If McCrory had cut the 12 days of Christmas by the same percentage that he chopped early voting, he would soon owe his true love eight maids a-milking, nine ladies dancing, 10 lords a-leaping, 11 pipers piping … McCrory will have to pay those pipers sooner or later.

We’d rather share a cup with him than complain at him. Until then, we wish him a Merry Christmas, indeed – merrier, no doubt, than that of the 500,000 people who have been denied federally expanded Medicaid benefits and the 170,000 families whose federal unemployment benefits he’s ended. All of these bills come due for our state’s poorest families on Jan. 1.

Isn’t it time for a cup of kindness?

Timothy B. Tyson, Ph.D., is visiting professor of American Christianity and Southern Culture at Duke Divinity School and education chairman of the NC NAACP. Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is senior minister at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro and president of the NC NAACP.

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