Tag Archives: voting

Court fines and fees: Another barrier to North Carolina’s ballot box

How much money do you have to pay before you cast your ballot on Election Day?

Image result for court fees
Image: myfloridalaw.com

For most North Carolinians, the answer might seem obvious: none. As the cornerstone of our democracy, voting is supposed to be fair, accessible – and free. But for an increasing number of North Carolinians, the right to vote can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

How is that possible? The answer is because North Carolina denies the right to vote to people who have felony convictions but cannot afford to pay their court costs, even if they have satisfied all other probation requirements.

Thanks to an ever-growing system of mandatory fines and fees, those caught up in the criminal justice system can be forced to pay anywhere from $40 to hundreds of dollars a month for the cost of their court administration, jail fees, probation, electronic monitoring, drug testing, even community service – and more. If they are unable to pay, they face a penalty fee for nonpayment, increasing their fees and lengthening their probation period.

These costs have increased substantially over time. In 1999, the base cost a person would pay for a superior court date was $106. Today the base cost is $198 with the potential to grow to more than $10,000 in serious cases as additional penalties snowball. Even if they have served all the terms of their sentence, even if they have had no probation violations, low-income people often remain on probation simply because they are low-income. And in far too many North Carolina courts, judges will not conduct hearings on a person’s inability to pay, as is required by law.

More from NC Policy Watch

Posted by Libergirl

One of Africa’s longest-serving strongmen has been kicked out of office

Yesterday’s man. Image: Reuters/Thierry Gouegnon)

After 22 years in power, Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh will no longer be president. According to the country’s electoral commission, Jammeh lost to Adama Barrow, the main opposition candidate, by 50,000 votes in the presidential election held yesterday. The surprising result was met with relief by Gambians, who took to social media after internet services were restored in the country following a shutdown before and throughout voting.

Alieu Fatty @alisimon10

Today I am very happy to witness the end of tyranny in The Gambia. The people took our country back. Welcome new #GAMBIA!

More from Quartz

Posted by Libergirl

Obama, conceding no fault, struggles to explain Trump’s rise

President Barack Obama pointed Tuesday to fears of globalization, economic uncertainty, suspicion of elites — anything but his own performance — as he grasped for ways to explain the unexpected rise of Donald Trump.

Image result for obama in greece
Image: Reuters

Opening his final overseas trip as president, Obama acknowledged he was surprised by Trump’s victory — and said it stemmed from deep-seated anxieties among working-class Americans that government must do better to address. But, he added paradoxically: “That’s been my agenda for the last eight years.”

“People seem to think I did a pretty good job,” Obama told reporters, citing his strong approval numbers. “So there is this mismatch, I think, between frustration and anger.”

Obama’s diagnosis of what went wrong for Hillary Clinton and Democrats offered little in the way of a road map for Democrats to avoid a similar fate in future elections. Democrats reeling from their resounding defeat last week are divided about what went wrong and even more divided about how to fix it.

In a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Obama said his proposals on jobs, education and infrastructure would have helped the same voters whose frustration drove Trump’s success at the polls — if only they’d been implemented.

“The problem was I couldn’t convince the Republican Congress to pass a lot of them,” Obama said.

It was also the clearest sign yet that the president did not accept Trump’s election as a repudiation of his policies, despite Trump’s ardent rejection of nearly every piece of Obama’s legacy.

Obama’s words are being watched closely by world leaders who see parallels between Trump’s election and the rise of far-right movements in their own countries amid continued economic anxiety. After Athens, Obama planned visits to Germany and Peru.

Obama’s visit sparked large protests in central Athens, prompting riot police to use tear gas and stun grenades to disperse about 3,000 left-wing marchers after they tried to enter an area declared off-limits to demonstrators. No injuries or arrests were reported.

Obama seemed skeptical that “the new prescriptions being offered” would satisfy voters’ restlessness.

At home, Obama’s party is split as it tries to come to terms with Trump’s win. Some Democrats are pushing for an immediate and concerted effort to block Trump at all costs, while others want an internal shakeup and new direction aimed at winning back support among working-class voters.

More from Tampa Bay Times

Posted by Libergirl

 

Take BACK the Senate

Source : Robertreich.org

Posted by Libergirl who says voting down ballot is very important!

Exclusion from NC voter rolls at issue in court order, new lawsuit

As the second week of early voting began in North Carolina, the state NAACP and voters in Beaufort and Moore counties filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday contending elections officials are erroneously purging eligible voters from the rolls as part of an attempt to suppress African-American voters.

The request for emergency intervention from the courts comes several days after a federal judge ruled in a different case that North Carolina election officials must take actions to protect people who were left off voter rolls after trying to register through the state Division of Motor Vehicles and state agencies that offer public assistance.

Some people waited in line in the last election only to find that they had to vote a provisional ballot because their county elections board had no record of their voter registration. One in six of those who cast provisional ballots had registered at a Department of Motor Vehicles office.
Image: News & Observer

U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs issued a 78-page order on Thursday for relief in the lawsuit filed last year by Democracy North Carolina, Action NC and the North Carolina A. Phillip Randolph Institute.

The organizations contend that North Carolina has failed to comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, the so-called “motor voter” law that requires states to offer voter registration at motor vehicle agencies and public assistance and disability offices.

 

Posted by The NON-Conformist

A growing conflict over voting rights is playing out in Georgia, where the presidential race is tightening

A growing conflict over voting rights and ballot access is playing out in Georgia, where civil rights activists are trading accusations with Republican elected officials and where the stakes have risen considerably with the state’s new status as a closely watched battleground.

Activists said this month that as many as 100,000 Georgia ­voter-registration applications have not been processed. One of the state’s largest counties offered only one early-voting site, prompting hours-long waits for many people at the polls last week. And the state’s top election official has refused to extend ­voter-registration deadlines in counties hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew.

These developments have prompted harsh criticism from voting rights activists. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit to extend registration for six counties affected by the hurricane. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who oversees elections, responded by taking to Twitter to rail against “left-wing activists,” whom he accused of trying to disrupt the election.

Fresh polls in the Peach State show a tightening presidential race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, who has complained that the election is “rigged” against him nationwide. But voting rights advocates in Georgia say Republican state and local election officials are undermining the fairness of the vote by passing laws and adopting procedures that deter minorities and young people, groups that typically vote Democratic.

The clashes in Georgia echo battles in recent months, some still ongoing, in other states across the country, including North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.

“Georgia is ground zero, if you will, when it comes to voter suppression and voting discrimination that we’re seeing this election season,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

During the past several months, advocates in Georgia have challenged laws and procedures enacted by Kemp that they said would make it harder for people to register to vote and would unnecessarily kick people off the voting rolls. In one county, advocates say they stopped an effort by local officials to move a polling precinct that served predominantly black voters from a gymnasium to the sheriff’s office.

The New Georgia Project and other progressive groups submitted about 250,000 new voter-registration applications by the state’s Oct. 11 deadline. But they learned last week that about half of those would-be voters had not been added to the rolls, based on data from Catalist, a Washington firm that collects and analyzes voter data for progressive organizations.

Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project, said the backlog happened partly because questionable procedures delayed the processing of applications and partly because the system was overwhelmed by the number of new applications. She said the group has launched an effort to contact more than 100,000 applicants and help them make sure they can vote by Nov. 8.

Early voting began in Georgia last week, overwhelming the one early-voting precinct in Gwinnett County, in suburban Atlanta. News outlets reported that some people waited up to three hours to vote. On Thursday, officials said they would add more machines to the single site and open two more sites Monday, five days earlier than originally planned.

Kemp said on Twitter that as of Monday morning, 578,539 ballots had been cast early in the state.

His spokeswoman declined to provide data on the number of outstanding voter-registration applications and said it is up to individual counties to process the forms.

Kemp has used Twitter to criticize the ACLU, which had asked a court to reopen voter registration for residents of Chatham County, which includes Savannah, and five other counties that were hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew. On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled against the ACLU.

In a series of tweets, Kemp decried what he said was a “stunt by the ACLU to manipulate the system & squander state, county resources days before the election.”

“We can’t sit back and watch the radical left create chaos in our state. Stand with me and protect Georgia elections!” he wrote.

“The very act of Brian Kemp peddling these bizarre conspiracy theories about the ‘radical left’ creating ‘chaos’ is itself a dangerous assault on our country’s democratic traditions,” said DuBose Porter, chairman of the state’s Democratic Party. “Just a few days ago, Kemp dismissed Donald Trump’s assertions of a ‘rigged’ election but is now falling into the same pattern of paranoia that works to undermine confidence in the system.”

Kemp, in statements during the past year, has dismissed allegations that his office’s policies are aimed at disenfranchising voters of color. In a statement last month, he touted voters’ ability to register or update their information online using a smartphone app.

“As Georgia’s chief elections official, I want to ensure every Georgian has the opportunity to register to vote and allow their voice to be heard at the polls,” he said.

Advocates describe a more frustrating experience for tens of thousands of would-be voters.

In mid-September, the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda sued Kemp’s office over a policy that required information on voter-registration applications to exactly match data in state driver’s license or Social Security records. A simple clerical error, such as a misplaced hyphen or transposed letters or numbers, could trigger a mismatch and result in an application being rejected. Voters would have 40 days to correct the discrepancies but would not be told specifically what needed to be fixed.

The lawsuit noted that out of 34,874 people whose applications were canceled between July 2013 and July 2016, 64 percent were black, compared with 14 percent who were white.

Clarke, of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the groups spent a year negotiating with Kemp’s office and thought they had an agreement to make changes to the policy. But then the secretary of state said the changes would not affect this year’s election.

Days before a hearing on an emergency injunction to block the practice, the state attorney general’s office sent a letter to the court saying the matching requirement would be put on hold and applicants rejected since October 2014 would be allowed to vote in this year’s election.

Clarke said that Georgia “is unique in that a lot of the suppression we’re seeing is at the local level, with elected officials in communities that are smaller and more rural, and are not under the microscope in the same way that state elections officials are.”

One example took place in ­Macon-Bibb County in central Georgia, where local officials this year decided to temporarily move a polling precinct with a high percentage of black voters from a community gymnasium that was undergoing renovations to the sheriff’s office.

“When we complained, we were told if people weren’t criminals, they shouldn’t have a problem voting inside of a police station,” Ufot said in a recent interview.

Unable to sway officials, Ufot said, activists went door to door and collected enough signatures from residents to block the relocation. The precinct was instead moved to a facility owned by a church.

The Peach State has been reliably red in the past five presidential elections — Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to win Georgia, in 1992. But the state could be competitive this year, with Trump holding a smaller lead over Clinton than Republican presidential candidates’ previous winning margins. The contest in Georgia is close because Trump is struggling to win over college-educated white voters. Boosting turnout among voters of color, who are more likely to vote for Democrats, could tilt the state in Clinton’s favor.

Georgia’s population, like those in other Southern states, is rapidly becoming more diverse because of an influx of immigrants and the reverse migration of African Americans from the North to the South. African Americans make up nearly 31 percent of the state’s voting-age population, Latinos 8 percent and Asian Americans 4 percent. Those groups, along with young voters, were the base of the coalition that twice helped elect Barack Obama, and their growing numbers could signal a shift in electoral power away from white Republicans, who flocked to the GOP in response to civil rights gains of the 1960s.

Ufot said she is frustrated that the New Georgia Project has had to fight so hard for the past two years against efforts by state and county officials that made it more difficult for people to participate in the democratic process.

“We acknowledge that in some areas we’ve worked to make changes, but it’s not happening quickly enough . . . and the clock is ticking.”

By Vanessa Williams/WashPost

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The North Carolina GOP effort to suppress the African-American vote continues

An extraordinary thing happened three weeks ago when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit threw out most of the massive voter suppression law passed by the General Assembly in 2013 and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Image: Charlie Neibergall, AP

The court found that legislative leaders asked for data broken down by race about how people vote and then as the court put it, with “surgical precision” changed the voting methods used disproportionately by African-Americans.

The motives could not have been clearer.

The General Assembly leadership created a photo ID requirement, ended same day registration at early voting sites, ended pre-registration of 16 and 17 year olds, and shortened early voting by a week—all to make it less likely that African-Americans would vote.

Voting rights advocates understandably celebrated the decision to invalidate much of the law as a landmark victory and it was. And it came after similar rulings in other parts of the country.  The tide on voter suppression was turning back toward democracy.

But now something else extraordinary is happening across North Carolina. The Republican majorities on local boards of elections are doing their best to thwart the court’s ruling and follow the lead of the General Assembly.

Each county board determines the times that early voting sites are open and where the early voting sites are located.  And many of the boards are now refusing to locate sites in African-American neighborhoods or on college campuses.

More from NC Policy Watch

Posted by Libergirl