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New state agency to examine criminal justice in North Carolina

07 Rep John SzokaState Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland, has been chosen to co-chair the House Select Committee on Community Relations, Law Enforcement, and Justice. The committee is comprised of legislators and various members of the public.

“It will examine North Carolina’s criminal justice systems to propose methods of improving police training and relations between law enforcement and its communities,” Szoka said. “I am ... eager to work with my team to identify policy reforms that help overcome discrimination, excessive force, and corruption in the North Carolina criminal justice system.”

Sixteen members of the North Carolina House of Representatives, including Elmer Floyd and Billy Richardson of Fayetteville, will serve on the committee. Thirteen others have been named to the group, including Cumberland County district attorney Billy West.
Pictured: Rep. John Szoka

School days aren’t what they used to be

06 N2008P69003CComputer logins and digital high fives are replacing school bus rides and hugs for many students and teachers who started the new school year Aug. 17.

More than two-thirds of North Carolina’s 1.5 million public school students are going to school remotely instead of getting face-to-face instruction. Internet learning will last for at least two months and potentially longer if the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t ease off.

Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly Jr. introduced Operation Smooth Start to ensure that remote teaching and learning are a new normal for students, educators and staff members.

Teachers are to connect with students, communicate classroom expectations and host classroom-level orientation sessions to help students become acclimated to the internet learning environment. District and school staff continue to ensure that laptops and tablets were delivered to schools based upon the requests from families.

Eighty modem-equipped school buses have been parked around the county to provide regional Wi-Fi capabilities.

North Carolina’s lax census response could affect state’s congressional delegation

11 N2004P64022CMore than 4 million North Carolinans are missing from the 2020 census. Major media reports have emphasized a low census count could put billions in federal dollars at risk.

But it also could keep North Carolina from gaining a congressional seat.

The census count, done every 10 years, helps determine how federal money is allocated to communities. It also determines representation in Congress. North Carolina’s population has grown by nearly 1 million people over the past decade. But if census takers don’t count them, the people parceling out congressional districts won’t know they’re here.

Each state gets at least one of the 435 seats in the U.S. House. The other 385 are divided mainly by population. Fast-growing states can pluck congressional seats from states losing people.

North Carolina should get a 14th district. We have about 10.6 million people, roughly 100,000 fewer than Georgia, which has 14 congressional seats. But Michigan — population 10 million — is expected to lose one of its 14 congressional seats.

If North Carolina’s census count comes in at or below Michigan’s, the 14th U.S. representative so many have anticipated could go to another state. Perhaps Montana, which has 1.1 million people but only one congressional seat.

Carolina Demography, a UNC Chapel Hill center focusing on data collection, found North Carolina’s census response is ranked 35th in the U.S. As of Aug. 2, only 59% of N.C. households have responded — compared to 63% nationally.

The census is in a major time crunch, behind schedule even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, the count was to finish by the end of July, but the U.S. Census Bureau pushed the deadline to Oct. 31.

The COVID-19 outbreak worsened during a critical collection period, when workers were going door-to-door to collect data from people who failed to report. Field operations were temporarily suspended, once again setting back the census collection.

The bureau had asked Congress for an extension to April 30, 2021, to deliver the preliminary results, but has since contradicted that request. The bureau quietly moved up the collection date from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30, giving census workers even less time to complete the count.

The Democrat-led U.S. House passed a bill extending the census deadline. But the Senate, which holds a Republican majority, shows no interest in taking up the measure.
Partisan interests are driving the divide on extending the census count, said Andy Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University.

“Historically, it has been more difficult to count the kinds of people who you would think would support Democrats,” Taylor said.

The hard-to-count group includes lower-income people, racial and ethnic minorities and transients, who tend to be overrepresented in bluer states and jurisdictions, Taylor said.

“If you give a blue state a congressional district it is more likely to end up having a Democrat representing it than a Republican,” Taylor said.

One factor helping North Carolina is its large military presence, writes Rebecca Tippett, who heads Carolina Demography. In an article for MarketWatch, Tippett says the census once listed overseas military members’ home states as their census addresses. But in 2018, the Census Bureau changed the rule. Military members temporarily deployed overseas will be counted in the state where they’re stationed rather than their home state.

Had that rule been in effect for the 2010 census, North Carolina would have added a 14th congressional district, Roll Call reported.

Another political split has emerged over whether the census should include people living illegally in the U.S.

The Trump administration doesn’t want to include illegal immigrants in the census. Trump released a memo July 21 calling to exclude the group from the official count, NPR reported. Civil rights groups are prepared to challenge the move in court.

Some states — including Texas, Florida, and California — would gain more congressional seats if undocumented people aren’t counted, according to research by the Pew Research Center, said David McLennan, a political science professor at Meredith College.

If illegal immigrants were counted, Alabama, Ohio, and Minnesota wouldn’t gain seats.

“Since undocumented people are the hardest population to get an accurate count on, Republicans are pushing to have less time for the door-to-door counting and to not count undocumented in the final apportionment totals,” McLennan said.

Democrats want a longer counting period including more undocumented people, because it would cost traditionally Republican states House seats, McLennan said.

North Carolina’s red-blue split shouldn’t be affected by the debate over counting illegal immigrants, but a significant undercount would have consequences for federal money and a new congressional seat.

“That is a possibility with a shortened time period and the fact that North Carolina has one of the lowest response rates in the country,” McLennan said.
Nonprofits are working overtime to get more people to respond.

“This definitely lights the fire under us and others across the state to make sure we are getting the word out and making a really strong call to action to complete the census,” Brandy Bynum Dawson, the director of advocacy at the N.C. Rural Center. Dawson is leading the Center’s Rural Counts advocacy program, which aims to improve the census response rate in rural areas.

N.C. Rural Center and the NC Counts Coalition are among the groups working to make the count more accurate.

“Any organization that has a trusted relationship with communities that are often undercounted in the census operation can be effective, trusted messengers,” said Stacey Carless, executive director of NC Counts Coalition.

“Churches can share the message about the census with their congregation through church announcements or by taking 10 minutes during service to encourage participation,” Carless said. “Food banks can encourage participation by providing census literature with food distributions.”

A number of barriers stand in the way of an accurate count. A lack of broadband access in remote areas is one. Some of the lowest response rates in North Carolina overlap with lack of internet access, Carolina Demography found. Areas where officials were forced to suspend field operations because of COVID-19 also overlap with low response rates.

Rural counties, such as Graham, Avery, Cherokee and Watauga, have some of the worst response rates to the census. The pandemic didn’t help.

“We had to revise and pivot ourselves to a new strategy, which was a lot online and utilizing social media as much as possible,” Dawson said.

North Carolina’s political parties aren’t involved with the outreach effort. The N.C. Republican Party plays no part in the census count, Tim Wigginton, the N.C. GOP press secretary, told Carolina Journal. The N.C. Democratic Party didn’t respond to an email from CJ asking about its involvement with the census count.

The modern history of Special Operations Forces in a new book

09 01 Phoenix Rising“Phoenix Rising: From the Ashes of Desert One to the Rebirth of U.S. Special Operations,” is a new book by Col. Keith Nightingale. “Phoenix Rising” recounts the birth of Special Operations Forces through the prism of Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue 52 Americans held hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran. When terrorists captured the American embassy Nov. 4, 1979, the Joint Chiefs of Staff quickly realized that the United States lacked the military capability to deal with the issues they faced. Nightingale graduated from Airborne, Jumpmaster and Ranger schools and retired as a colonel in 1993. He served two tours in Vietnam and he was an original member of Joint Special Operations Command.

Upcoming election allows participation in democractic process

13 01 calendar marked november third 2020 presidential elections 47726 75842020 has not been a normal election year. From rallies cancelled because of COVID-19 to talk of mail-in voting and whether or not the U.S. Postal service could support such an endeavour, nevermind concerns about how that might work, voters may want to consider how they will cast ballots this year, including voting early.

An individual’s eligibility to vote is set out in the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution states that suffrage (the right to vote) cannot be denied on grounds of race, color, sex or age for citizens 18 years or older. Beyond these basic qualifications, it is the responsibility of state legislatures to regulate voter eligibility and all elections. In the U.S., elections are held for government officials at the federal, state and local levels.

At the federal level, the nation's head of state, the president, is elected indirectly by the people through an Electoral College. The number of electors in each state is equal to the number of U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives to which the state is entitled in Congress. North Carolina has 15 electors and requires that electors support the popular vote of the state.

Members of Congress are elected directly by the people. Each state elects two U.S. senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives, the latter based on population.

The 2020 presidential election could come down to just half a dozen states. Experts generally agree that the key swing states to focus on this year are Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all of which were won by President Trump in 2016.

"Those will be the six most critical states," Paul Maslin, a longtime Democratic pollster, told Newsweek. "There will be others that'll be important in varying degrees," he said.

“The Electoral College creates strange incentives for campaigns to ignore most of the country and pour their attention into a small number of places," Barry Burden, a professor of political science and director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Newsweek.

"Voters in these states should expect to see a lot of advertising, a lot of visits from the candidates and their surrogates and a ton of field activity with offices opening and volunteers appearing at their door," Burden added.

"To some extent, it's not really a national election. It's all about the Electoral College," Newhouse said.

The names of electors are not on the ballot in most states. Rather, when a voter casts a vote for a presidential candidate, he/she is also casting a vote for the electors already selected by the party of that candidate. For instance, if a majority of voters in North Carolina votes for the Republican candidate for president, the Republican slate of electors is elected. If a majority votes for the Democratic candidate, the Democratic slate of electors is chosen.

There are many elected offices at the state level, including governor and lieutenant governor in North Carolina. Members of the Council of State are also elected statewide. There are also elected offices at the local level, in counties, cities, towns and townships as well as school districts and special districts that may transcend county and municipal boundaries. According to a study by political scientist Jennifer Lawless, there were 519,682 elected officials in the U.S. as of 2012.

To register to vote in North Carolina, one must be a U.S. citizen; live in the county of his/her registration and have resided there for at least 30 days prior to the date of the election; be at least 18 years old, or by the date of the general election (16- and 17-year-olds may preregister to vote); and not be serving a sentence for a felony conviction, including probation, parole or post-release supervision. In North Carolina once an individual has completed a felony sentence or been pardoned, he/she is eligible to register and vote.

Early voting is available from Oct. 15-31 at a dozen sites around Cumberland County. Registered voters may update their addresses and change vital information in an existing registration record at the early voting site, but they are not allowed to change their party affiliations during the one-stop voting period that precedes a partisan primary.

North Carolina citizens can vote by mail. The election office must receive ballot application requests by Oct. 27, and completed ballots must be postmarked by or received in-person by Nov. 3. For more information, visit the North Carolina State Board of Election’s website.

The Cumberland County Boards of Elections’ office maintains precinct lines and notifies all voters of correct precincts and districts and also provides elected officials, candidates and the general public with reliable information as requested, along with administering the Campaign Reporting Act in Cumberland County. In addition, the elections office is responsible for maintaining contact with precinct officials at all times concerning elections, new laws and training.

The Cumberland County Board of Elections is in urgent need of poll workers for the Nov. 3 general election and the early voting period in October.

The board will follow state guidelines to protect the health and safety of election workers and voters. Social distancing measures and routine cleanings have been put into place and poll workers will be provided appropriate personal protective equipment.

Election worker duties include staffing polling places during early voting and on Election Day, setting up and taking down voting enclosures, checking in voters, issuing ballots and assisting voters upon request. Poll workers are compensated for attending training and for working during early voting and on Election Day. Interested registered voters can complete the online application by going to electionready.net.

There are 75 polling places in Cumberland County, 35 of them inside the Fayetteville city limits. To locate your polling place, go to ncsbe.gov. Click on Polling Place, Search and then enter your information.

On election day, Nov. 3, all polling sites will open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. No politicking is allowed within 50 feet of the main entrance to the polling place. In Fayetteville, those who post political yard signs on their property must remove them within a day or two following the election or be subject to a fine.

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