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Election turnout belies critics’ claims

Election turnout belies critics’ claims of disenfranchisement

If North Carolina’s election laws were indeed designed to be “the most restrictive in the country,” maybe the legislature should consider a second draft.

The November midterms were the first time the state’s new Republican-passed voting rules were in place. Critics, from the U.S. Justice Department to the NAACP and the League of Women Voters, derided the changes as an unconstitutional effort by the GOP-controlled General Assembly to limit the participation of blacks, young people and other core members of the Democratic coalition.

Those groups filed suit against the rules shortly after they became law, and the case is scheduled to be heard next summer.

To win in court, the critics will have to overcome an inconvenient truth. According to data released by the State Board of Elections last week, the laws didn’t prove to be nearly as restrictive as advertised.

In fact, African-American participation in November rose 16 percent over the last midterm election – when turnout is traditionally lower – in 2010. The increase among voters ages 18-25 was 37 percent.

Turnout among registered voters increased slightly among Democrats, Republicans and the unaffiliated. Overall totals – 2.9 million votes statewide – rose by 1 percent.

One of the most controversial changes – the reduction of days set aside for early voting – drew a surprising result. More North Carolinians took the early option this election cycle and did so in the fewer days.

Of course, any suppressive impact of the laws may have been muffled by the fact that North Carolina had the most expensive – and perhaps the most bitter – U.S. Senate race in the country this year.

Also, groups like the NAACP made it a crusade to get voters to the polls in spite of any barriers – real or imagined – designed to keep them away.

There’s also this point to be hammered out in court next year: Just because the laws didn’t work as many feared doesn’t make them any more or less legal. Michael Gordon

‘Oh God, it’s Mom’

Think of it as a sort of political Christmas story.

Last week, Brad and Dallas Woodhouse were doing their familiar schtick: Dallas, the conservative Republican, Brad, the former spokesman for the national Democratic Party. Arguments ensued.

They were doing their routine on C-SPAN when host Steven Scully took a call.

“Let’s go to Joyce in Raleigh, North Carolina,” he said.

“Hey, somebody from down South,” Dallas said.

“You’re right I’m from down South,” said the caller. “And I’m your mother.”

“Oh, God, it’s mom,” said Dallas, burying his head in his hands.

“And I disagree that all families are like ours,” Joyce Woodhouse went on. “I don’t know many families that are fighting on Thanksgiving. I was very glad that this Thanksgiving you were supposed to go to your in-laws.

“And I’m hoping you’ll have some of this out of your system when you come here for Christmas. I would really like a peaceful Christmas. And I love you both.”

Scully asked Mrs. Woodhouse what it was like to raise two outspoken boys with such divergent views.

“Well,” she said, “it hasn’t been easy.” Jim Morrill

Mecklenburg near bottom in turnout

Another post-election analysis: Independent voters had a better year than Mecklenburg County.

Unaffiliated voters made up nearly two-thirds of the 250,600 additional people who voted in 2014 than in 2010, according to an analysis by Democracy North Carolina and its director, Bob Hall.

That was largely because of the surge of independent registration. Only 35.1 percent of unaffiliated voters cast a ballot in 2014, compared to 46 percent of Democrats and 50.5 percent of Republicans.

And while 44.3 percent of North Carolina voters turned out for the midterms, turnout varied widely across the state. Mecklenburg finished near the bottom.

Only 39 percent of Mecklenburg voters went to the polls. Only six of the state’s 100 counties saw smaller turnout. Jim Morrill

Man accused of profiling honored by governor

Gov. Pat McCrory last week honored the Alamance County sheriff who’s currently fighting a federal lawsuit that accuses his department of racial profiling.

Sheriff Terry Johnson received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for the second time. The award is considered one of North Carolina’s top civilian honors.

Johnson was presented the award during a dinner in his honor. McCrory wasn’t present, but Congressman-elect Mark Walker was.

A U.S. Justice Department lawsuit accuses Johnson of ordering roadblocks in Latino neighborhoods and arresting Hispanic residents without probable cause. Although the trial ended in August, a judge has yet to rule on the case.

McCrory spokesman Ryan Tronovitch said the decision to honor Johnson was unrelated to the federal investigation and lawsuit.

“Sheriff Terry Johnson has a proven record of decades of service to not only the great state of North Carolina, but also his local community,” Tronovitch said.

Johnson was first given the award in 2001 by Gov. Mike Easley after decades with the State Bureau of Investigation. Colin Campbell, The (Raleigh) News & Observer