September 6, 2019
NC Legislative Redistricting Battle at an End?
A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that North Carolina’s legislative districts are unconstitutional and must be redrawn before the 2020 election cycle. The decision was unanimous to strike down the maps. According to the three judge-panel, composed of two Democrats and one Republican, the maps drawn in 2017 were done so with partisan bias. The judges stated in their ruling that this bias ultimately dictated election outcomes and control of the General Assembly. In a surprise move, the Senate’s top leader, Sen. Phil Berger, announced the GA doesn’t have plans on appealing the decision, but rather looks forward to ending the redistricting battle and moving forward. He added, however, that the decision “contradicts the Constitution and binding legal precedent.” The ruling affords legislators only two weeks to draw the new districts, mandating new maps be prepared by Sept. 18. The districts can be redrawn to protect incumbents from being pitted against one another, but no additional political data can be used in the redraw, per the ruling. If the legislature does not complete the task of redrawing the districts by the Sept. 18 deadline, the three-judge panel may delay the 2020 primary elections, not only for legislative races, but for other races as well (i.e. primaries for statewide races, etc.). No official statement has been released from House GOP leadership.
Special Congressional Elections
Next Tuesday, Sept. 10, Congressional races will finally be decided in N.C.-3 and N.C.-9. These are two of only three special Congressional elections scheduled nationally for the year. The election in N.C.-3 is being held to fill the vacancy left by the late Rep. Walter Jones (R) who passed away in February. State House member, Rep. Greg Murphy (R), former Greenville mayor, Allen Thomas (D), Tim Harris (Lib) and Greg Holt (Const Party) are running for the seat. In N.C.-9, a special election was called after the N.C. State Board of Elections chose not to certify the results of the 2018 General Election in which Republican Mark Harris was initially declared the winner over Democrat Dan McCready. Following State Board of Elections hearings in February, it was determined that the Harris campaign had engaged in ballot tampering and fraud, and a new election was ordered. Harris chose not to run again, setting the stage for a packed primary. State Senator, Republican Dan Bishop, won the special primary election earlier this summer, paving the way for a showdown on Sept. 10 between the “two Dans” – McCready vs. Bishop. Two other candidates are also on the ballot: Libertarian Jeff Scott and Green Party candidate Allen Smith. Turnout for both races is expected to be at a record low, mainly due to the fact that many voters don’t realize there are special elections. Making matters worse, much of east/southeast N.C. is awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Dorian. As a result, several counties have closed early voting sites in anticipation of the storm. In the 3rd district, 10 counties closed early voting sites for all or part of Thursday and 15 counties are closed for all of Friday. In the 9th district, four counties are limiting early voting. No decisions have been made yet by the SBOE as to whether early voting opportunities might be rescheduled for the weekend. As for polls and predictions, Rasmussen Reports on Thursday moved NC-9 from “Leans Republican” to “Toss-up” and N.C.-3 from “Safe Republican” to “Likely Republican.” Why are these two special Congressional elections significant? A win for the GOP would launch a national comeback effort for the U.S. House – Republicans lost control of the House to the Democrats last year. A win for the Democrats would be a sign that the party is making even greater inroads into what has been labeled “Trump country,” perhaps turning N.C. a deeper shade of purple.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced this week that the number of unintentional opioid overdose deaths in the state dropped in 2018 for the first time in five years. According to data collected by the DHHS, opioid fatalities decreased by 5% last year. Emergency room visits due to opioid-related overdoses also declined, by approximately 10%. Based on preliminary DHHS findings, there were 1,785 estimated opioid overdoses in 2018 compared to 1,884 the year before. The decline seen in N.C. is on track with a national trend according to the New York Times. The publication recently reported that federal DHHS data showed a decline in overdose deaths nationwide in 2018, the first decline since 1990. The opioid epidemic has taken a tremendous toll on N.C. In 2016, a national ranking named Wilmington as the worst city in the United States for abuse of opioids. The same report also named Hickory, Fayetteville, and Jacksonville, N.C. among the top 25 worst cities. In response to the news of a decline, DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said the findings are promising. However, Cohen stressed “we know far too many North Carolina families are still suffering. We must continue to focus on prevention, reducing harm and connecting people to care."
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