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The Daily Tar Heel

Looking into the early effects of this year’s midterm elections

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Supporters of newly elected NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls anticipate her arrival at the election night party for the Democratic party on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at the Democratic Headquarters in Raleigh.

On Nov. 6, voters across the state cast their ballots with hopes of electing the candidates who represented their values.

“We’ve had huge, huge, huge turnout in Orange County,” said Jim Bartow, chairperson of the Orange County Democratic Party, on election night. “Huge early voting turnout and huge today turnout. I think people are energized and people want to win.”

Those hoping for a blue wave saw some of their goals realized, and a significant youth wave swept the nation as well.

Sue Googe, a Wake County resident who attended the North Carolina GOP’s election night event, said she hoped the country could find an identity to agree on.

“I believe it’s a turning point of some sort because this country is so divided right now,” Googe said. “The left and the right receive different news sources and have their own set of media that they’re listening to, almost like they live in different worlds, so it’s hard to gauge what’s really going on.”

Voters in North Carolina faced elections for the U.S. House, N.C. General Assembly and N.C. Supreme Court, along with referendums on several constitutional amendments.

Democrats were able to break the Republican supermajority in both the state house and senate, unlocking the power of Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto.

Republicans maintained nine of their 10 previous U.S. House districts in the state. Democrats held their three, including U.S. Rep. David Price, D-04, and one is still undecided.

The N.C. State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement declined to certify the election results in U.S. House District 9, which includes much of the area around Charlotte. Preliminary results show Republican Mark Harris with a minute lead over Democrat Dan McCready, but irregularities in the election regarding voter fraud and absentee ballots caused the BOE to vote unanimously to not certify Harris' victory.

The BOE is currently running an investigation that pertains mostly to absentee ballot results in Bladen County, where several sworn statements to the board have alleged that many people were urged to re-register to vote, fill out additional absentee ballots or turn in absentee ballots to volunteers who came to their doors. A News & Observer review found 40 percent of mail-in ballots in Bladen County and 60 percent in the neighboring Robeson County were never turned in.

The N.C. GOP has criticized a lack of transparency regarding the election from the bipartisan Board of Elections and called for the immediate certification of Harris’s victory. Andy Penry, the Democratic chairperson of the board, resigned Saturday. Penry said in a statement following his resignation that he did not want his partisan views to undermine the growing investigation.

The investigation comes at the end of an election season already marked by lawsuits over gerrymandering and some proposed constitutional amendments.

Of the six North Carolina constitutional amendments on the ballot, four passed successfully. Two amendments that would reallocate some of the governor’s powers to the legislature did not pass. Voters chose to add the right to hunt and fish, protections for crime victims, a lower cap on income tax rates and a voter identification requirement to the state constitution.

Legislation narrowing or further defining these amendments, particularly the voter identification requirements, will be introduced in the coming months. 

“I feel very strongly that we need to have voter ID because voting is a privilege,” Googe said on Nov. 6. “And to have someone have the opportunity to cheat on an election, I think that is an insult and an assault on democracy, and we need to keep that in mind.”

Anita Earls, who was elected to the North Carolina Supreme Court, said there was much work to be done in the state moving forward.

“I promise that once I am sworn in as the 100th justice to serve on the N.C. Supreme Court, that I will endeavor to the best of my ability to uphold the constitutions of the United States and North Carolina,” Earls said in her Nov. 6 victory speech. “I promise to apply the law fairly and equally to everyone, no matter their race or how much money they have in their pocket, and I promise to resist partisan attacks on the judicial branch, which must remain independent and impartial in order for our democracy to succeed and thrive.”

Voters and officials from both parties are already looking forward to the 2020 election as this election wraps up.

“North Carolina is a bellwether state in terms of our registration numbers and the opportunity we have for growth in terms of number of democratic leaders,” said Wayne Goodwin, chairperson of the N.C. Democratic Party. “We’ve had an unprecedented effort with Governor Roy Cooper to organize for this election, more than we’ve ever seen for a midterm election, and we have an incredible, diverse range of candidates that puts us in good position for victories tonight and to get ready for 2020, which starts tomorrow.”

Democrats in the state and national government hope to address Medicare and Medicaid, education, teacher pay, middle class tax relief and job creation. Meanwhile, the current Republican-controlled General Assembly will focus on passing legislation to enforce the new constitutional amendments.

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