The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday January 31st

Column: Don't let North Carolina disintegrate democracy

Could our state legislature steal an election?

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The biggest story in N.C. politics is one that no one is talking about — but it could change the course of the 2020 election and the future of American democracy. 

Under Article 2 of the Constitution, state legislatures have the express power to choose which electors vote for President of the United States. In a state with an overwhelming Republican majority in the legislature and a governor with diminished veto power, North Carolina is a swing state with the power to steal an election. And in 2020, state Republicans have begun the rhetoric to do so. 

Last week, both Republican members of the N.C. State Board of Elections resigned, after they unanimously approved a measure allowing voters to fix, or “cure,” absentee ballots with missing information.

Both resignations were involuntary, pressured by state Republican leaders who claim the process to fix incorrect absentee ballots is susceptible to fraud. In their resignation letters, the ex-NCSBE members said they were misled into approving the ballot process. However, released documents from the NCSBE showed the members were fully aware of all information before casting their vote. 

Republicans have no evidence in their assertion of fraud, just a base that will believe their rhetoric regardless. It mirrors the president’s own strategy for November, a dystopian display of the NCGOP’s loyalty to Trump over the republic. 

Trump has continually refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power, saying last week, "We want to have — get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very — we'll have a very peaceful — there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation. The ballots are out of control."

The only notable evidence of ballot fraud was in North Carolina in 2018, when Republican Mark Harris’ congressional campaign engaged in illegal ballot-harvesting by third parties. Investing in USPS pre-paid postage and ballot drop boxes would prevent  this rare occurrence by eliminating the need for voters to hand over their ballots to a third party. Yet Trump blocked $25 billion in coronavirus relief funding dedicated to the USPS.

If Trump loses North Carolina’s popular vote in November, there is a clear, sinister path for our state legislature to elect Trump regardless. Make no mistake, it would trigger a behemoth of a trial — one that would eventually land in a Republican-dominated Supreme Court.

In his farewell address, George Washington wrote that American security, liberty and prosperity are rooted in self-governance, yet “from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken … to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth."

Modern democracy is slow and painful. The history of this country is in many ways despicable and undemocratic, founded by men who shouted for liberty yet were slaveowners themselves. Alone, the words in the Constitution don’t mean anything without our collective belief in upholding democratic norms and expanding equality and opportunity — even when society’s flaws are still evident, and political institutions like the Electoral College are themselves anti-democratic.

It’s often frustrating and dispiriting, I get it. When the pendulum of power swings with extremity often, you lose hope, you feel small and alone. But if we aren’t vigilant, with time, authoritarianism will stomp out our energy until we fall silent, until we concede to survive in whatever inequitable life we live. 

Maybe you think Joe Biden is too far left, or too far right. But you don’t have to like Democratic policies to respect democracy as a sacred system, the only governance that leads to centuries of progress. There is only one candidate who has committed to upholding and expanding the notion that this country is for and by the people. 

I can’t stress the importance of being hyperaware of attacks on democracy, to make your voice heard and make your vote matter while it still can. Make this a landslide victory for democracy in North Carolina that not even the most corrupt GOP legislator would bother to contest.    

@ryan_smooth

@dthopinion | opinion@dailytarheel.com

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