feature image by Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP
In a last ditch effort to maintain Republican power in North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill today that would limit the power of incoming Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, who unseated McCrory in a contested November election.
GOP leaders called an emergency special session this week on the basis of sending funds to parts of the state devastated by Hurricane Matthew. Instead they used the opportunity to pass a series of bills that would weaken Cooper’s power and continue to give Republicans the power in the coming years.
McCrory quickly signed a bill into law that merges the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission and that would be comprised equally of Democrats and Republicans. In previous years, Cooper would have been allowed to put a majority of Democrats on the board. The law also says elections of appellate court judgeships must be partisan. In another bill that is being pushed through the final stages of legislative approval Cooper would need to get confirmation of his cabinet choices from the Republican-controlled Senate.
Democrats say this is a GOP power grab, a week after McCrory finally conceded. If you didn’t know, there was A Whole Thing with the governor election. Cooper won the election by a small margin of votes, about 10,000, and McCrory and his gang cried voter fraud and asked for a recount. According to the Atlantic, the battle over the governor election results is directly tied to suppressing voting rights. Since the GOP took control of North Carolina’s General Assembly in 2010 and the governor’s mansion two years later, “Republicans embarked on an aggressive program of conservative reforms,” including the passing of it’s extremely anti-LGBT law, HB2. But most notably, North Carolina Republicans passed a law in 2013 that regulated voting which included a photo ID requirement, ended same-day registration, and shortened the early-voting period. Conservative politicians argue the regulations are needed to combat voter fraud which there is little evidence of. Thankfully the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law and found it was more likely to suppress minority voters who vote Democratic. That meant the November election was conducted without the 2013 voter suppression law, for the most part. So McCrory and his Republican gang tried every conniving way to blame the election results on voter fraud (and not on himself for signing HB2 into law, which brought nationwide backlash and disapproval.) Well, it didn’t work and McCrory finally conceded early last week.
With Cooper set to take over office January 1st, Republicans pulled out all the stops and tried to do the most damage while they still can.
Some say that this isn’t just a “partisan power grab” and instead a more insidious attack on democracy. Mark Joseph Stern from Slate says this is a “legislative coup.”
“What’s happening in North Carolina is not politics as usual. It is an extraordinarily disturbing legislative coup, a flagrant effort to maintain one-party rule by rejecting democratic norms and revoking the will of the voters. It is the kind of thing we might expect to see in Venezuela, not a U.S. state. It should terrify every American citizen who believes in the rule of law. This is so much more than a partisan power grab. This is an attack on democracy itself.”
Rev. Dr. William Barber, the president of the North Carolina NAACP and a leader in the Moral Monday protests, believes the surprise legislative session was “an insult to democratic values held by all people of goodwill in this state.”
“It is immoral, it is unconstitutional, and this illegal session is a direct attack on the people of North Carolina,” he said. “To convene in Raleigh under the pretext of a special session called by the Governor to provide relief to those affected by the hurricane and wildfires continues the worst of this extremist legislature’s legacy: making unjust laws to give more power to themselves, on the backs of those most vulnerable.”
Barber and other organizers and protestors stormed the state capitol building on Thursday to demonstrate against the bills. According to the AP more than 50 protestors have been arrested since Thursday for disrupting House and Senate floor session.
Cooper, the current attorney general, says he will sue and challenge the laws in court.
Cooper becoming governor was at least one good thing that came out of the election but it means nothing when Republicans further take control and in turn disempower the most vulnerable populations in the state.