Tuesday, 17 November 2020
Written by John Hood
Over the course of 34 years penning a column on North Carolina politics and public policy, I’ve seen it all. Or so I thought. Until 2020 came along.
It’s not that I proffered a passel of bad predictions for which I must now do penance. After pegging many races wrong in 2016, I was more guarded in my prognostications this year. And the picks I offered — that Donald Trump would win North Carolina but not reelection, that U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis would secure a second term, and North Carolina Republicans would retain their General Assembly and Council of State majorities — proved to be pleasingly precise.
Rather, I just think we have never before seen so many fascinating trends come together in such a compelling electoral performance.
After pondering the election results a bit more, I have prepared a list of eight factors that helped shape the outcomes.
• Polarized. Like much of the country, North Carolina has a polarized electorate. Generations ago, somewhere between a fifth and a quarter of voters were willing to split their tickets between the two major parties. Today, that share is in the single digits.
• Parity. That doesn’t mean ticket-splitters are irrelevant. Polarization is present in places like California and Mississippi, too. But parity isn’t. The Democratic base is so large in the former, and the GOP base so large in the latter, that a few percentage points of swing voters can’t swing the result. In North Carolina, however, the two partisan coalitions are nearly even (by behavior, not registration). So when a few Tar Heel voters — disproportionately older voters in rural areas, according to my analysis of county returns and exit polls — decided to split their tickets, voting Trump and Tillis for federal office and Roy Cooper for governor, their choices were decisive.
• Process. Before the election, Democrats went to court to challenge election rules the General Assembly had previously enacted by bipartisan votes. Democratic plaintiffs won an extension of the absentee-ballot deadline but little else. If those late-arriving ballots flip any outcomes, you can expect the issue to be re-litigated.
• Pandemic. Not only was COVID-19 a big issue in federal and state races, but the pandemic also affected how campaigns were run. Crucially, Republican-leaning groups started canvassing for votes door-to-door during the summer, while Democratic-leaning groups shied away from this time-tested tactic until the final weeks. Given that canvassing is an outdoor, low-risk activity, the Democrats blew this call, as candid Dems now admit.
• Polling. Pollsters got it very wrong this year. Clearest example: while Cooper won reelection by 4.4 points, the polling average going into Election Day was +11 Cooper.
• Press. Much of the media abandoned all pretense of fairness and actively rooted — in news stories — for Republicans to lose. While Trump did indeed fall short, I think attempts to suppress anti-Biden stories or cheerlead for Democrats ended up harming the media’s already battered reputation.
• Platitudes. At least two bits of “conventional wisdom” ought to be retired after the 2020 elections. One is that politics is largely about money. Democrats vastly outspent Republicans in North Carolina this year but almost always fell short. Another familiar myth is that low-turnout elections favor Republicans and high-turnout elections favor Democrats. There was no such historical pattern in North Carolina elections going into 2020. And that’s not how it turned out this year, either.
• Public Safety. As I observed in a prior column, Republican candidates tilted some votes by speaking strongly against the looting and rioting that followed some Black Lives Matter protests this summer.
And there you have it: my eight p-factors that mattered in 2020. Are you persuaded?
Tuesday, 17 November 2020
Written by Jim Jones
We the people are sick and tired of the election buffoonery. I believe that when things go sideways, you should either go back to basics or change the process because you have nothing to lose.
Our American election process is the foundation of our democracy and the cornerstone of a free society. However, I think we can all agree that we may need a little election reform and demand that leaders make it a priority. I have a few ideas to help with some out-of-the-box ideas to a better approach to voting.
What if we labeled both the Democratic and Republican Parties as terrorist groups and outlawed them? Then make everyone an "independent" to only vote on the merits of the best candidates representing your beliefs, family, community and county. Instead of primary run-off elections, debates, town hall meetings, and community roundtables, we have a voting process like American Idol using a panel of judges who vote candidates off each night until we get a winner. This would cut out party loyalty and annoying telemarketers relentlessly raising money for his or her favorite candidate. If their campaign requires mailers directly to your house, the Post Office should charge a surcharge to underwrite the mail carriers. Seriously, everyone said the Post Office could never get the ballots processed and delivered on time, yet they have no problem delivering those crappy flyers and junk mail.
Each state is responsible for their election certification. They need to have a voting process free from cheating, impropriety and a simple method to count. It is hard to imagine that in 2020, we cannot vote securely on our cell phones. Think about it! We pay our taxes, bank, gamble, and can even find a love interest using these devices, yet these techno geniuses can't figure out a way that will allow us to vote securely? After all, these devices have facial recognition, fingerprint capabilities, special codes and besides, your phone knows where you live. I assure you that if the Silicon Valley tech geniuses cannot figure it out, then the casino gurus in Las Vegas can. Oh, if someone does not own a phone, they can always vote the old fashion way - in person. Here's another voting idea: We should have an intelligence test to pass before allowing you to vote. After all, if we must identify traffic lights to get on a website through CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) to confirm we are human, it's reasonable to ask a few simple questions to ensure we are mentally capable of voting.
Election day voting should start at midnight, Coordinated Universal Time (or UTC), which is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time and lasts all day. Twenty-four hours and stop at 2359 hours UTC. This gives everyone the same time and chance to vote anywhere in the world. The only people who would vote absentee would be those in the military conducting combat operations. No media outlet should be allowed to call an election. The only person authorized to announce and declare a winner is who the state designates as the official election spokesperson.
Depending on what is being voted on, not everyone should be allowed to vote in America. For instance, if you are not a U.S. citizen, you do not get to vote. Period! You would not let someone walk in your house and start giving you advice about how to do your taxes, how to raise your kids, or what you should buy with your own money. So, why would it be suitable for a non-citizen to determine the direction of our country's future? Locally, if you do not own a property, you should not be allowed to vote on raising property taxes for projects for which you get no benefit.
I remember as a kid watching “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.” They had two antagonist spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, who frequently interfered in Rocky and Bullwinkle's affairs. We know foreign governments do that. Even the United States has done its part to influence other country's elections. In this election, there has been no evidence of foreign interference. So instead, maybe we should focus our attention on local interference. All Americans have the freedom and right to vote without fear. If someone interferes in an election, they should be charged with a federal crime and lose their voting privileges. This includes the stealing of campaign signs out of someone's yard. That is a very bold thing to do, and these thieves should be considered "election terrorists" and lose their voting rights. If they intimidate or "cancel" you because of your political affiliation, that should also be considered election terrorism.
These are just a few suggestions that would level the voting playing field. By restoring our confidence in the voting process and eliminating the country's partisan political divide, we are free to practice and enjoy one of our most cherished American rights and freedoms.