N&O forum will explore the Nov. 6 ballot – front, back and in between


There’s nothing middling about these midterms.

From top to bottom, the Nov. 6 ballot is full of meaningful choices, ranging from six proposed changes to the state constitution to local bond issues. There are major fights for control of the state legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives. This election represents a record year for female candidates, another year of gerrymandered districts and, even without his name on the ballot, a referendum on President Trump.

Voters could use help finding their way through this political maze. The N&O’s next Community Voices forum, “Decision 2018,” will feature a quartet of panelists who will provide a step-by-step review of not only what’s on the ballot — but what’s behind what’s on the ballot. They’ll also discuss what various results could mean for the Triangle and for North Carolina.

The forum will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 29, at the North Carolina Museum of History. Even if you’ve already voted, it will worth learning more about what’s at stake.

Tickets are $10 and are available at Eventbrite.com. Members of the N&O’s Rewards program can receive free tickets by entering a promotional code found on the Rewards page.

The panelists will be:

David B. McLennan, Ph.D., professor of political science at Meredith College and director of the Meredith Poll, a statewide survey of public opinion of North Carolina voters. McLennan teaches courses that include American government, campaigns and elections, political leadership and women in politics.

Elizabeth Kusko, Doctor of Arts, an assistant professor of political science at Peace University, whose primary research centers on narratives and their influence within and upon American politics and policy.

Gerry Cohen, a lawyer and political scientist and the unofficial historian on the North Carolina General Assembly, where he worked for more than 30 years as director of legislative drafting.

Janet Hoy, co-president of the North Carolina League of Women Voters. The League was instrumental in having North Carolina’s congressional district map being declared an illegal racial gerrymander.

Some key questions about this election include:

• Can Democrats break the Republicans’ legislative super majorities (75 to 45 in the House and 35 to 15 in the Senate)? Republicans took full control of the General Assembly following the 2010 election, redrew the district lines as required after the 2010 Census and increased and protected their majorities through gerrymandering. With majorities that are more than three-fifths of the membership of both chambers, the Republicans can override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes. Democrats need to pick up six seats in the Senate or four seats in the House to break the Republicans’ veto-proof majority.

• Will Democrats take strong control of the state Supreme Court and prevent a possible court-packing move by Republicans? Anita Earls is a Democrat and a voting rights activist who represented plaintiffs in overturning the Republicans’ redistricting maps and new laws restricting voting. She’s trying to unseat Justice Barbara Jackson, a Republican. Should Earls win, Democrats would have a commanding 5-2 majority on the state’s highest court. Should Jackson win and a proposed constitutional amendment on legislative judicial appointments pass, Republican lawmakers may use a lame-duck November session to add two seats to the Supreme Court and try to engineer a 5-4 Republican majority.

• What will happen with the six proposed constitutional amendments? The amendments are the most on a ballot in a single year since 1982. The amendments range from the unnecessary (an endorsement of hunting and fishing rights) to the dangerous (lowering the cap on the state income tax from 10 percent to 7 percent).

Taking up these questions and others on your mind will make for an informative discussion of the ballot and democracy in action. We hope you’ll elect to attend.

Barnett: 919-829-4512, nbarnett@ newsobserver.com

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