Moral Mondays and now Truth and Justice Tuesdays

A reader sent me this:

The Moral Monday movement to protest changes in North Carolina public policy that organizers believe are extreme and hurt the state won’t abate in 2014 and will spread to other states, its leader said. Activists from a dozen states attended a meeting in Raleigh earlier this month to learn how to hold similar protests in their states.

“There is no stopping this deep, moral, constitutional critique of public policy,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, which began the protests. “It is a must.”

Among those attending the meeting in Raleigh was Democratic state Sen. Hank Sanders of Alabama, where groups were already holding Truth and Justice Tuesdays based on Moral Mondays. Georgia also plans to demonstrate against laws there.

More than 930 people, including Barber, were arrested during the 2013 legislative session as part of the protests as they moved weekly from the outdoors into the Legislative Building. After the session ended, the NAACP held events across the state, including Asheville, where an estimated 10,000 people showed up. Barber, who was convicted of two counts related to the protest earlier this month, is appealing the District Court judge’s decision.

The protests will continue next year starting with a planned march in downtown Raleigh on Feb. 8 and continuing when the North Carolina General Assembly goes back into session next May 14, Barber said.

The Moral Mondays protests will spread to Atlanta when the legislative session opens in Georgia on Jan. 13, said Tim Franzen, Atlanta economic justice program director for the American Friends Service Committee. “A lot of us are looking at it as a Southern strategy, the kind of Southern strategy that hasn’t existed in many decades,” said Franzen, who also attended the December session in North Carolina.

Art Pope is a conservative activist and wealthy donor who was appointed to a state position in North Carolina. Here’s a great piece from 2011 by Jane Mayer titled “State For Sale”. The state that was sold in 2012 is North Carolina. Art Pope bought it.

Since so many of the Moral Monday citizens were arrested there were public records of the arrests and (one of) Pope’s conservative lobbying groups used those records to create a site to smear the protesters. You can look through that site here. Mr. Pope’s employees had a lot of fun posting the mugshots of their fellow citizens on the smear site.

I’m grateful to the protestors but I’m also grateful to Art Pope for creating and funding such a handy site where these brave folks are all listed in one place.

Jumping thru hoops to vote shows grit and determination

Republicans must be feeling some pre-election jitters because they’re rolling out the zany rule changes:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) chief election official issued new rules Monday night that could hamper absentee voting, just months before Floridians in the state’s 13th Congressional district take part in a special election to replace the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R). The seat was held by Republicans for decades, but is now considered a tossup.
Under the new rule, Floridians will be prohibited from dropping off their absentee ballots at “libraries, tax collectors’ branch offices and other places” and will only be allowed to mail-in their selections or deposit them at local election offices.
Detzner claims that the rule change clarifies established statutory language and establishes “uniformity,” but some supervisors fear that it could have the effect of suppressing voter turnout.
“I was surprised, to say the least,” Ann McFall, Volusia’s Supervisor of Elections told ThinkProgress. “I just have one office and no ‘drop boxes.” Under the new rules, “people who like to save postage and drop it off at an early voting site” could no longer do so. “Why create a problem when none currently exists?” she asked.
Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark had a similar reaction. She told The Tampa Bay Times, “I’m very worried about this. I’m just stunned.” Pinellas county “has used dropoff sites since 2008 and used 14 in the 2012 general election,” when 42 percent of the county’s absentee ballot total were left at dropoff sites.

Now one of the county election administrators says she’s defying the order and she plans to retain her drop-off sites and a lot of her fellow county election chiefs are backing her up. Florida Senator Bill Nelson has also weighed in:

Nelson said he’s concerned that the new rule is an attempt at voter suppression.
“This is so obvious that it’s making it harder to vote for the average folks, whether Republican or Democrat,” he said.
Some elections supervisors agree.
Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said he has 15 sites where voters can drop off their ballots prior to election day. If he were to follow the new directive, 13 of them would be closed.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Latimer said. “I was flabbergasted when this memo came out.”

Conservatives have been pulling the last minute election rule change trick for a long time, and this isn’t the first time that local Florida election administrators have rebelled:

Detzner has a history of limiting voters’ access, however. In 2012, the state created a voter purge list full of suspected non-citizens, which was mainly comprised of Latino, African and Asian Americans. The list was full of mistakes, targeting U.S. citizens because of a misspelled name or outdated address. County election supervisors refused to go along with the purge, and the Justice Department sued over possible racial discrimination. Detzner eventually apologized for the effort.

It’s good to remember that free and fair elections can be subverted in a lot of ways. Small rule changes that make it more difficult for certain people to vote can do a lot of damage. It’s just completely unnecessary to make this process so difficult and confusing. Competent, consistent election administration is really important and local officials can be the last line of defense for voters. Of course, local officials are also the people who will hear all the complaints if ballot drop-off locations are closed, just as local officials took all the heat when Florida conservatives recklessly purged thousands of legit voters prior to the 2012 election.

Now come the young ones

In August, the League of Women Voters sued North Carolina on that state’s new voter suppression law:

On Monday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed the most suppressive voting law in decades. The League of Women Voters of North Carolina (LWVNC) went straight to action, filing a federal lawsuit to challenge the voting restrictions as racially discriminatory and request that the state be placed back into preclearance under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
North Carolina’s new voting law is likely a bellwether of anti-voter legislation to come in other states following the Supreme Court’s decision this past June striking down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. While much focus has been given to the law’s voter photo ID requirements, its voter restrictions unfortunately go much deeper.
In addition to requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote, the law:
• Shortens weekday early voting periods;
• Eliminates early voting on Sundays;
• Eliminates pre-registration for high school students;
• Eliminates same day registration during early voting.
LWVNC’s lawsuit, which was filed by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the ACLU on behalf of LWVNC, Common Cause and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, argues that the state’s new voting law will restrict voter registration and voting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, particularly minorities.

“North Carolina has a long and sad history of official discrimination against African Americans, including official discrimination in voting that has touched upon the right of African Americans and other people of color to register, vote, or otherwise participate in the democratic process,” LWVNC’s lawsuit argues.

Over 70 percent of African-Americans used early voting in the 2008 and 2012 general elections, compared to 52 percent of white voters. The lawsuit is just one part of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina’s vow to do everything in its power “to see that this legislation gets swept into the dustbin of history where it belongs.

This is a motion to intervene in that original League of Women Voters lawsuit, brought by young voters, yesterday (pdf). “VIVA” is the Voter Information Verification Act which is the title of the North Carolina law. Louis M. Duke is one of the young plaintiffs, which is why they are called the “Duke Plaintiffs” in the motion:

The Duke Plaintiffs, all young voters residing in and registered to vote in North Carolina, seek to intervene in this action to protect their voting rights and interests that are guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Twenty-Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
Like the current plaintiffs, the Duke Plaintiffs assert that the law violates their right to equal protection as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. But as young voters, the Duke Plaintiffs bring the unique perspective of a group, not currently represented by any party to the litigation, whose voting rights are significantly impacted by VIVA…

VIVA infringes upon or outright denies the rights of young North Carolinians to vote through restrictive voter identification requirements; the curtailment of early or “one stop” voting; the elimination of same day registration; the elimination of out-of-precinct voting; the removal of the discretion of boards of election to keep polling locations open for an extra hour on Election Day; and the elimination of pre-registration for 16 and 17-year-olds. These drastic changes in North Carolina’s voting laws disproportionality affect young voters as compared to the general population.

Accordingly, in addition to claiming a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Duke Plaintiffs allege injury under the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits states intentionally infringing or denying “the right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote on account of age”

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

“Mostly what we did was pray and sing.”

The Moral Monday protestors who were arrested were offered a deal, which many of them didn’t take:

Although I have never met Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, according to news reports he has kindly offered me a deal. To avoid Wake County’s mounting court costs, he wants me to forgo my court date Monday and instead perform 25 hours of community service at an agency of my choice. Then my record would be wiped clean.
You see, on May 6, I was arrested in front of the appropriately colored golden doors of the N.C. General Assembly chambers. I was charged with three misdemeanors: failing to disperse when ordered to by the chief of the Capitol Police, illegally assembling with three or more people and singing, shouting and waving a placard. More than 900 other people decided to join me in the pokey. If all of us Moral Monday arrestees go to trial, the Wake County Courthouse will be a very busy place for the next several years.
I am not going to accept his nice offer as I did nothing wrong. I did not resist arrest, and the legislature continued its sessions without interruption. All that we protesters did was shine a light in the darkness of the actions of Gov. Pat McCrory, Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Phil Berger.

It’s good they didn’t take the deal, because the testimony at trial has been interesting:

North Carolina police covertly spied on protesters who were part of the widespread ‘Moral Monday’ demonstrations that shook the state this summer, according to testimony given at a trial for a protester who was arrested in an act of civil disobedience.
At the hearing of Saladin Muammad, a U.S. Army veteran and labor activist arrested on May 13 while at a Moral Monday protest, General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver testified that he received advanced intelligence reports from officers about protesters’ plans ahead of events in which arrests were made.
Deck-Brown told AP over the phone that a plain-clothes officer attended two meetings at the Davie Street Presbyterian Church on May 6 and May 13 at the height of the Moral Monday protests.
“The purpose of the officer’s presence was to determine how many people were expecting to be arrested to allow the department to gauge the sufficiency of the logistical support, such as transport vehicles, available at the Legislative Building,” Deck-Brown told AP.
As Weaver testified that his department had targeted “anarchists” in the region and collected intelligence on them, there was “a murmur of disbelief among the many lawyers attending the Wake County District Court hearing,” the News & Observer reports.
Weaver said his officers, who worked with Raleigh city police, scanned the many Moral Monday rallies for who they believed might be anarchists.
State NAACP president Rev. William Barber said that news of the Raleigh police behavior was concerning. “It’s not like we were planning a bank heist,” Barber said after learning of the surveillance. “Mostly what we did was pray and sing.”

Art Pope is a wealthy person who purchased a political appointment to run the State of North Carolina. Mr. Pope early on developed an extensive database on the protestors, so I’m not clear why police had to spy on them.

Here’s a thought experiment. What if this were happening to members of the Tea Party? Full-bore national scandal with 24/7 media coverage? Some political speech is more equal than others, I guess.

Remember the African-American college student North Carolina county officials tried to keep off the ballot?

He won.

And now for some good news

Via TPM:

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed legislation Monday to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.

The expansion is expected to expand health coverage to more than 300,000 Michiganders in its first year and nearly 500,000 eventually.

When the Supreme Court ruling came out that decided the Feds were offering too good, and therefore too coercive of a deal to expand Medicaid, I guessed that within six to eight months forty or so states would have either expanded Medicaid or been in the process to expand Medicaid.  I figured states that had unified Democratic control would do so quickly for social justice reasons.  I figured split states and states with non-batshit insane Republicans in leadership positions would pass expansion with a coalition of Democrats who were responding to their base and Republicans who could count to eleven with their shoes on. 

I was wrong.

Michigan is what I expected to see in most Republican controlled state governments.  Michigan did the math and figured they would lose a boat load of money and make major donors worse off (and by the way, half a million people) for a stupid ideological stand, so a coalition of Democrats and Republicans who could count to eleven passed a bill. And a governor with budget woes took the money.

The only downside of Michigan’s decision to take the money so late is that the Republican controlled legislature decided to delay the expansion until April 1 out of spite