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After Legislative Coup, North Carolina Can No Longer Be Considered a Democracy, Report Says

Posted on Dec 29, 2016

A new report finds that North Carolina’s democratic institutions are so flawed that the state should no longer be considered a functioning democracy.

The report, by the Electoral Integrity Project, or EIP, “points to extreme gerrymandering, voter suppression of communities of color and the recent stripping of power of incoming Democratic Governor Roy Cooper by Republicans,” reports Democracy Now! EIP gave the state a score of 58 out of 100 points—similar to those of Cuba, Sierra Leone and Indonesia.

For more about the study, Democracy Now! spoke with Andrew Reynolds, professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and one of the founders of the Electoral Integrity Project.

Reynolds said:

If you look at North Carolina’s electoral process and you look at some of the more recent activities of the Legislature in suppressing access to the polls, taking some executive power back to the Legislature after the Republicans lost the governorship in the last elections, and also the systematic way in which redistricting in Carolina has removed competition from the electoral process, so incumbent state legislators now are beholden to their party leaders, the more extreme wings of their party membership, and not the voters themselves—when you add all these issues and elements together, we see North Carolina as an atrophying democracy, a semi-democracy, a pseudo-democracy, a place where democracy is on the decline, the vibrancy of institutions are getting weaker, and the population is more exasperated and alienated from the political process, because they feel it no longer reflects their will or their opinions about issues on a day-to-day basis.

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Reynolds previously detailed why “North Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy”by EIP in an op-ed published at The News & Observer:

First, legislative power does not depend on the votes of the people. One party wins just half the votes but 100 percent of the power. The GOP has a huge legislative majority giving it absolute veto-proof control with that tiny advantage in the popular vote. The other party wins just a handful of votes less and 0 percent of the legislative power. This is above and beyond the way in which state legislators are detached from democratic accountability as a result of the rigged district boundaries. They are beholden to their party bosses, not the voters. Seventy-six of the 170 (45 percent) incumbent state legislators were not even opposed by the other party in the general election.

Second, democracies do not limit their citizens’ rights on the basis of their born identities. However, this is exactly what the North Carolina legislature did through House Bill 2 (there are an estimated 38,000 transgender Tar Heels), targeted attempts to reduce African-American and Latino access to the vote and pernicious laws to constrain the ability of women to act as autonomous citizens.

Third, government in North Carolina has become arbitrary and detached from popular will. When, in response to losing the governorship, one party uses its legislative dominance to take away significant executive power, it is a direct attack upon the separation of powers that defines American democracy. When a wounded legislative leadership,  and a lame-duck executive, force through draconian changes with no time for robust review and debate it leaves Carolina no better than the authoritarian regimes we look down upon.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly


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