Lawsuit Filed Challenging North Carolina’s Congressional Districts

A lawsuit has been filed by advocacy groups arguing that North Carolina’s 2016 congressional redistricting plan violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment of US Constitution.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the Campaign Legal Center announced the lawsuit on Thursday on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina.

The lawsuit, League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho, was filed in the US District Court for North Carolina’s Middle District, according to a release.

The lawsuit comes after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that North Carolina’s congressional districts were unconstitutional. The maps that were ruled on were drawn by the Republican-led General Assembly following the 2011 census and have been winding through the court system since.

A special primary was held in June for congressional races in the Tar Heel state after a federal court ordered the legislature to redraw the districts because of racial gerrymandering used when drawing the maps. Legislative leaders made clear when announcing the new congressional districts that the new map was drawn with intent to keep the GOP’s 10-3 majority from North Carolina in the US House of Representatives.

While the lawsuit focuses on congressional districts, the federal court also ruled the legislative districts were unconstitutional but allowed the districts to be used this November. The court said it was too close to the election for new districts to be drawn, approved and a new primary to be held.

Southern Coalition for Social Justice executive director Anita Earls issued the following statement regarding Thursday’s lawsuit.

“The Constitution guarantees everyone’s right to participate equally in an electoral system that does not discriminate against them because of their beliefs. It’s clear that the intent and effect of creating North Carolina’s 2016 congressional maps were to manipulate the democratic process. The result disparages voters and ensures that one party can maintain political power even when a majority of the state’s voters do not support them.”

Campaign Legal Center executive director Gerry Hebert also issued a statement.

“When it comes to congressional districts, North Carolina’s are an extreme and egregious partisan gerrymander. Packing and cracking voters in districts based on their political ideology and voting history classifies voters in an invidious manner unrelated to any legitimate legislative objective. Radical partisan gerrymandering like that in this case turns democracy on its head. For the sake of North Carolina voters and voters across our nation, this practice must come to an end. The implementation of our efficiency gap standard would go a long way in ensuring that every voter is entitled to equal protection under the law and having their voice heard.”

New Poll Shows Cooper and Ross Leading North Carolina Races

Democrats are gaining ground on or expanding the gap between their Republican counterparts in North Carolina ahead of November’s election, according to survey numbers released Thursday.

A New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll shows that the race for president is tied in the battleground Tar Heel state with both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump polling at 41 percent in a three-way race. When the third-party candidate is removed from the question, Clinton leads 45/43.

While North Carolina has been described as a “must-have” state for Trump to have a chance at winning the White House, the poll survey said that the “presidential contest might be the least of the Republican Party’s worries in this rapidly changing state.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Roy Cooper is leading Republican incumbent Governor Pat McCrory by eight points at 50/42, according to the new numbers.

Meanwhile in the race for North Carolina’s United States Senate seat, Democratic challenger Deborah Ross has a four-point lead, 46/42, over Republican incumbent Richard Burr. Nate Cohn wrote when summarizing the poll that the North Carolina Senate race “is among the handful that seem likely to decide control of the Senate.”

Cohn added that the shift in the state’s politics may be occurring because “well-educated white voters are rejecting Republican candidates in North Carolina.” Cohn wrote that, “none of the Republican candidates led among white voters with a college degree.” He noted also that is a group Republican Mitt Romney won by nearly 30 percentage points when running against President Barack Obama in 2012.

The survey shows that Trump is leading Clinton by a 66/17 margin among white voters without a college degree.

Polling numbers have been coming out of North Carolina all week. Elon released surveys this week showing McCrory with a three-point lead over Cooper, Ross with a one-point lead over Burr and Trump with a one-point lead over Clinton. Public Policy Polling released survey results on Wednesday showing Cooper with a five-point lead over McCrory, Burr and Ross tied at 41 percent and Trump with a two-point lead over Clinton.

Federal Judge Dismisses Challenge to North Carolina Same-Sex Marriage Law

A federal judge has dismissed a challenge to a North Carolina law that allows magistrates to refuse to marry same-sex couples by citing religious beliefs.

According to the AP, a judge in Asheville ruled that a lawsuit brought by three North Carolina couples, two same-sex couples and one interracial couple, lacked evidence showing they were harmed directly by the law.

The law in question allows magistrates, assistant registers of deeds, and deputy registers of deeds to recuse themselves from performing duties related to marriage ceremonies due to “sincerely held religious objection.”  It is commonly referred to as Senate Bill 2.

Senate Bill 2 became law after the North Carolina General Assembly overrode a veto by Governor Pat McCrory in 2015.  North Carolina and Utah are the only two states with such a law.

PPP Survey Finds Trump with Slight Lead in North Carolina, Cooper up 5 in Race for Gov

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Roy Cooper are leading their respective races among North Carolina voters, according to the latest survey of the Tar Heel state by Public Policy Polling.

The numbers, released on Wednesday, continue to show a deeply divided state when in it comes to November’s election.

Trump is leading Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by a 45/43 margin among likely North Carolina voters. Six percent of those surveyed said they would support Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Clinton and Trump are tied in the survey when Johnson is removed with both major-party candidates polling at 47 percent.

PPP director Tom Jensen writes when summarizing the gubernatorial race, “For the first time this entire cycle PPP finds a clear leader in the race to be North Carolina’s next Governor.”

Cooper is leading incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory by five points, according to PPP, at a 46/41 margin. Libertarian Lon Cecil is garnering support from two percent of those surveyed.

Cooper’s lead grows to a 50/43 margin when undecided voters and Cecil supporters are asked which of the major-party candidates they would support if forced to choose one.

Jensen writes that Cooper’s strength with independent voters is setting the pace for his lead over McCrory.

North Carolina’s controversial HB2, which advocates maintain is the worst piece of anti-LGBT legislation in the nation, continues to hurt McCrory, according to PPP. The survey shows that North Carolinians think HB2 should be overturned by a 20-point margin.

In North Carolina’s United States Senate race, PPP finds that the race is tied between Republican incumbent Richard Burr and Democratic challenger Deborah Ross with both candidates polling at 41 percent. Jensen writes this is the first time that Burr has not been in the lead in a PPP survey.

Council of State positions up for election this November also appear to be split evenly among likely voters.

Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest has a three-point lead in his reelection effort against Democratic challenger Linda Coleman; Democratic Attorney General candidate Josh Stein has a four-point lead over Republican Buck Newton and Democrat Dan Blue III is leading Republican Dale Folwell 38/37 in the race for State Treasurer.

Jensen summarizes that “up and down the ballot North Carolina’s about as evenly divided as it could possibly be.”

See the full survey.

Trump and Clinton in Near Dead Heat in North Carolina

Republican Donald Trump holds what Elon University described as a “slight but statistically insignificant” one-point lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton in North Carolina. The results were released by Elon on Tuesday – one day after Elon released North Carolina numbers for the state’s governor and senate races.

The racial divide in North Carolina continues to be a major factor in the election as African-American poll respondents preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump at a 98/2 rate. Trump’s lead with white voters is not as stark but is significant at 65/35.

Clinton appears to be leading among residents who are still undecided. Elon officials wrote when summarizing the results that 35 percent of the undecideds surveyed would lean toward voting for Clinton when pressed on who they would vote for. Trump and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson split the remaining undecided voters with 18 percent each.

Johnson appears to be pulling votes equally from Clinton and Trump.

North Carolina has been a major target during the election cycle. Both major-party candidates and their vice presidential candidates have made multiple campaign stops in the Tar Heel state.

North Carolina has been described as a “must-have state” if Trump is going to win the White House.

North Carolinians – at 87 percent – said that it was not a factor in their voting decision that Clinton would be the first female president in the United States.

North Carolinians surveyed also felt that both candidates were worse than past candidates from each party – 51 percent said Clinton was worse than normal, while 62 percent said Trump was worse.

Public Policy Polling is also set to release North Carolina-specific survey results this week.

McCrory: Could Take ‘Several Days’ for Normal Gas Supply in North Carolina

Governor Pat McCrory held a press conference this morning to address the gas shortage in North Carolina. McCrory announced that the construction and positioning of the repair on the leak of the Continental pipeline in Alabama has been complete as of this morning.

McCrory said once construction is successfully complete, preparations for a restart of the main fuel line will begin. Continental officials estimate completion sometime tomorrow morning.

“However it will still take several days for the fuel delivery supply chain to return to normal,” Mc Crory said.

Due to the gas leak, North Carolina is currently only receiving about one third of the normal supply of fuel.

Because of the limited supply, McCrory said their primary focus remains in ensuring that emergency vehicles have the necessary fuel the need provided. For state employees, McCrory said he recommends that business’ limit unnecessary travel for their employees.

“We have also encouraged the private sector to take similar measures to encourage employees if they can to telecommunicate, where appropriate, and minimize non-essential travel,” McCrory said.

North Carolina officials are working together to eliminate any acts of price gouging as they manage to get as many tanker trucks into North Carolina as fast as possible. Reports say Attorney General Roy Cooper’s Office has received more than 1,000 reports of possible price gouging.

“We are trying to get as many trucks, we are now delivering to get to North Carolina as quick as possible, so I’ve waived many of the restrictions for trucking to get them to our state as quick as possible,” McCrory said.

During the press conference, McCrory thanked all who have worked diligently to replenish the fuel in areas that are currently out and concluded his words by recommending North Carolinians continue to limit their unnecessary travel these next few days while they work to get things back to normal.

“This is typically a short-term problem and will remain a short-term problem if we follow these guidelines,” McCrory said.

You can see a list of gas stations with and without gasoline here.

Poll Shows McCrory with ‘Slight, but Statistically Insignificant’ Lead over Cooper for NC Gov

New North Carolina survey numbers show a little bit of change and more of the same.

It is becoming clearer by the day that North Carolinians are in the middle of one of the most heated election cycles in recent memory.

That feeling was backed up once again by a new round of poll numbers released by Elon University on Monday.

But in a bit of a changeup, Republican incumbent Governor Pat McCrory is leading his Democratic challenger Attorney General Roy Cooper by almost three percentage points. Cooper has been ahead in recent polls, but these numbers show that the race for the Governor’s Mansion is far from over in the Tar Heel state.

Officials with the Elon Poll described McCrory’s lead as “slight, but statistically insignificant.”

The poll was taken over the last week, when the state’s controversial House Bill 2 was in the news cycle nearly every with the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference pulling neutral-site championship events from the state over the law, which advocates maintain is the worst piece of anti-LGBT legislation in the nation.

The number of North Carolinians who opposed HB2 continues to be significant with 49.5 percent of respondents saying they were against the legislation.

Among those surveyed, just over 36 percent said HB2 makes them less likely to vote for him, while nearly 27 percent said they were more likely to vote for him over how he has handled the law.

While eyes across the state and country will be on North Carolina in part for the gubernatorial race, the race for one of the state’s seats in the United States Senate is also viewed as a crucial spot. Republicans have a thin majority in the US Senate and Democrats have targeted Republican incumbent Richard Burr as a weak point in the Republican’s effort to maintain control of the chamber.

Recent polls have varied showing Burr leading at times and then shifting to his Democratic challenger Deborah Ross.

Ross is leading in the Elon poll by an even slimmer margin that McCrory at just one point.

Elon officials wrote in summation that McCrory rising in the polls while Burr was declining was “a surprise.”

There were a couple on interesting demographic notes from the survey; more than 75 percent of respondents were over the age of 51.

And the racial divide in North Carolina appears to be trickling down the ballot. African-Americans have favored Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by wide margins compared with Republican candidate Donald Trump.

That trend continues in the races for governor and senate in North Carolina. African-American voters favor Cooper over McCrory in the gubernatorial race by a 93-7 margin. That number grows in the senate race with Ross outpacing Burr by a 96-4 gap.

We are expecting presidential survey numbers of likely North Carolina from Elon on Tuesday. Public Policy Polling is also scheduled to release polling numbers from the Tar Heel state later in the week.

See the full results of Monday’s Elon survey here.

Charlotte Refuses to Repeal Nondiscrimination Ordinance

It appears there will be no movement regarding a possible repeal of North Carolina’s House Bill 2 after a weekend full of speculation.

The conversations initially began on Friday afternoon when a hospitality lobbying group said it had information that made it believe if Charlotte were to repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance regarding bathroom use, the state would repeal HB2 – which advocates maintain is the worst piece of anti-LGBT legislation in the nation. A similar arrangement was proposed earlier in the year, but the Charlotte City Council did not move forward at that time.

The stories were coming after a week of fallout over the legislation including the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference pulling championship events from neutral sites across North Carolina due to the law.

A joint statement from Republican House Speaker Tim Moore and Republican Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said no discussion had been held in either caucus regarding a repeal or modification of HB2. But the statement added leadership did believe there would be momentum for a full repeal, but only if Charlotte acted first.

“Although our respective caucuses have not met or taken an official position, we believe that if the Charlotte City Council rescinds its ordinance there would be support in our caucuses to return state law to where it was pre-HB 2,” GOP leadership wrote in the statement.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts stopped any speculation the state’s largest city would consider repealing its nondiscrimination ordinance.

Roberts issued a statement on Monday saying the City Council was “not prepared to add this item to our agenda” ahead of its meeting Monday night.

Roberts did call on the state to “take action as soon as possible and encourage continued dialogue with the broader community.” Roberts added that the state could overturn HB2 “at any time without any action from the City of Charlotte.”

Judicial Forum Set for Thursday Night at Orange County Courthouse

The Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce and Orange County Bar Association are holding a judicial candidate forum Thursday to give you a chance to interact with this year’s candidates.

This will be the first judicial candidate forum held in Orange County to date. The forum is scheduled for the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough from six o’clock until eight o’clock on Thursday night.

Attorney Hathaway Pendergrass is assisting the chamber and the Bar Association to promote the event and says this will be a great opportunity to hear from the candidates firsthand.

“That’s a lot of names and a lot of positions and so, to help the folks, especially in Orange and Chatham Counties, we wanted people to meet some of these candidates,” Pendergrass said.

Since this forum is new to the area, Pendergrass gave some advice on what to look for in a candidate you may vote for.

“It’s different than just saying, ‘I’m going to vote for this person just because maybe of their party affiliation.’ You look for experience. Sometimes judges will hint at the way that they feel, whether they interpret the Constitution a certain way or not,” Pendergrass said. “But, you can also look at their record, maybe as an attorney.”

Pendergrass said it’s especially important to come out and listen to the District Court Judges because they handle so many issues locally.

“Come out and listen to them and find out what their views are on, especially the District Court Judges, about the community,” Pendergrass said.

If you are interested in attending this Forum, make sure to go to the Mural Court Room at the Orange County Courthouse at six o’clock on Thursday.

You can find more information on who will be attending this forum visit the Hillsborough Chamber website.

Three GOP Legislators Calling for Modifications or Repeal of HB2

Two Republican state Senators are now saying it may be time to modify or fully repeal North Carolina’s House Bill 2.

The change in sentiment is coming after the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference announced this week that the groups would be pulling championship events held on neutral sites across North Carolina over HB2, which advocates maintain is the worst piece of anti-LGBT legislation in the nation.

The NCAA and ACC decisions followed the National Basketball Association moving the 2017 All-Star Weekend festivities from Charlotte to New Orleans over the legislation, which was passed and signed into law in a one-day special session in March.

The law immediately drew national headlines and some major companies announced they would no longer expand in the Tar Heel state due to the law.

After months of almost no movement from Republicans in the state legislature over any modifications to HB2 – other than restoring the right to sue for employment discrimination in state court – at least two state Senators are now calling for action. The News & Observer is reporting a Republican member of the House of Representatives is also calling for changes to the law.

Wake County Republican Tamara Barringer was the first GOP senator to call for the full repeal of HB2 following the NCAA decision earlier this week.

Barringer said in a statement that, “With the most recent announcements impacting our state, there are simply too many examples of very sad and unfortunate ramifications and unintended effects of HB2.”

Senator Rick Gunn represents portions of Alamance and Randolph Counties, and he joined Barringer’s call on Wednesday. Gunn’s movement came after the ACC decision.

“I think it is time we give serious consideration to modifying, or possibly repealing, HB2,” Gunn said in a statement.

Both Barringer and Gunn said they still had concerns over bathroom privacy but felt the negative impacts on North Carolina were now too much to continue forward.

Republican Governor Pat McCrory is continuing to call for federal courts to ultimately decide the fate of the controversial law. McCrory’s Democratic gubernatorial opponent Attorney General Roy Cooper, meanwhile, issued a statement on Wednesday continuing to call for the immediate repeal of HB2.

See the full statement from Gunn below:

“I’m opposed to giving men access to girls’ locker rooms and bathrooms, but I also am concerned about the impact HB2 is having on our state and the Triad – especially NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference athletic championship events – and I think it is time we give serious consideration to modifying, or possibly repealing, HB2. It is time for the federal courts to protect women and girls’ privacy and strike down President Obama’s bathroom sharing mandate.”

See the full statement from Barringer below:

“Whenever legislative bodies rush to judgment on important public policy decisions, there are unintended consequences. With the most recent announcements impacting our state, there are simply too many examples of very sad and unfortunate ramifications and unintended effects of HB2.
“I do not want men or boys legally to be able to share the same locker rooms or bathrooms with my 16-year-old daughter and her classmates or teammates. However, if we want to preserve the proud heritage of North Carolina, it is time for our leadership to consider a substantial and immediate repeal of HB2.”