Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

Winston-Salem Journal. Oct. 11, 2021.

Editorial: Don’t Arizona our North Carolina

Republican legislators in North Carolina are pushing to inspect voting machines used in Durham County during the 2020 presidential election, in search of the invisible voter fraud that they insist exists, any proof of which has consistently eluded Republican officials across the country. It’s a project that will be popular in Trump circles, but in the larger picture, accomplishes nothing but to damage our state’s reputation and keep a popular lie in circulation.

Rep. Jeff McNeely, a North Carolina Republican and member of the Freedom Caucus, said he and other Republicans want to inspect the voting machines because of “many, many millions of accusations” of “machine tampering and votes being switched because of modems.”

This, despite the fact that North Carolina’s voting machines don’t have modems and can’t be connected to the internet. They’re designed so by law.

McNeely says he and other members of his group selected Durham County randomly, drawing the name from a hat.

Which is quite a coincidence, considering that the vast majority of Durham County’s votes went to Joe Biden in 2020 — and considering Republican legislators’ fruitless examination of Durham County’s ballots in 2016, which affirmed a preference for Gov. Roy Cooper over incumbent Pat McCrory.

McNeely says he’s already received approval from the people who supply the machines, and now he needs permission from the North Carolina Board of Elections and the county in question.

But none of those officials are amenable to such a baseless fishing expedition. “Unauthorized individuals who are not elections professionals have no authority to open and inspect voting equipment,” State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell said in response to their request.

And after all, what’s the point? A partisan inspection conducted by biased, conspiracy-believing legislators isn’t going to sway anyone — nor should it.

Their request arrives just after the results of the faux-audit conducted in Maricopa County, Ariz., by the partisan Cyber Ninjas were released, concluding that Biden won by an even wider margin than originally thought — a result confirmed by Arizona’s Republican election officials.

None of that stopped former President Trump from claiming that the Maricopa County results proved the exact opposite.

Across the country, some Republicans continue to push Trump’s Big Lie, even to the point of threatening violence against election officials, and even though they’ve failed numerous times to prove their case in court. Their only evidence is hearsay and wild speculation that is immediately shot down by elections officials, many of them Republicans.

“Why not let them investigate?” some will ask.

There are many good reasons, among them that the election was investigated.

More than 150 Election Day precincts and 30 early voting sites were audited following the election, along with a dozen counties that audited all of their mail-in absentee ballots. No improprieties were found.

Dozens of legitimate recounts and audits have been conducted across the country. No evidence of significant voter fraud favoring Biden has been revealed.

How many more investigations need to be conducted? Will one more settle the matter? How about a dozen? How about examining the 2020 election in perpetuity? Are Republicans going to endlessly challenge every election result that doesn’t go their way for the rest of the nation’s existence?

We’re tempted to urge N.C. officials to cooperate with the Freedom Caucus, but only with this agreement: that these legislators promise, if no fraud is revealed, to abandon all claims of voter fraud and admit publicly that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States.

Otherwise, what’s the point? What’s the point in investigating if they never accept the results of the investigations?

On the same day these legislators made their request, Jack Sellers, the Republican chair of Maricopa County’s board of supervisors, told the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee it was clear that some of the state’s Republican leaders “do not care what the facts are.”

“They just want to gain political power and gain money by fostering mistrust of the greatest power an individual can exercise in the United States — their vote,” he said.

We fear the same is true here.

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Charlotte Observer. Oct. 12, 2021.

Editorial: Mark Robinson wants attention. He’s embarrassing North Carolina to get it.

North Carolina’s Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is shameless when it comes to bellowing against make-believe threats to God, guns and heterosexuals. But even if the state’s highest-elected Republican is beyond embarrassment, he is still embarrassing for North Carolina, and especially for North Carolina Republicans.

His party’s leaders should tell him he’s wrong, but they say nothing.

Robinson, fresh off a campaign to stamp out liberal “indoctrination” in public schools about the role of race in U.S. history, has made news again for attacking gay and transgender people as engaged in “filth.” His comment surfaced when the website Right Wing Watch posted a video last week of a speech Robinson gave in June at Asbury Baptist Church in Seagrove.

"There’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth,” Robinson said to rising applause. “And yes, I called it filth. And if you don’t like it that I called it filth, come see me about it.”

The media – state and national – have come to see the lieutenant governor about it, much to his delight. When you occupy a mostly invisible office, but hope to win a higher one, attention – negative or positive – is what you want most.

Robinson was not cowed to be caught on tape in a church denigrating his fellow children of God. There was no backtracking or claims about context or misspeaking. Instead, he reasserted his comments.

“We will not be intimidated. We will not back down. We will not change our language,” Robinson said in a video he posted over the weekend. “The language I used, I am not ashamed of it. I will use it in the future because, again, it is time for parents in this state to take a strong stand for their children.”

It is a measure of Robinson’s character that when caught being a bigot, he takes refuge behind children. This is not about his condemning the sexual preference or the gender identification of other people, he says. No, it’s about him protecting “young children” from being forced to listen to explicit talk about sexuality.

Of course, there is little about sexuality and gender being taught in public schools to young children. This is a straw man just like the other phony issues Robinson concocts – that gun rights are under attack or school teachers are brainwashing children to “hate America.”

But while the threats are false, those hurt by the backlash are real. There are thousands of North Carolina school children struggling with their sexuality and gender identity. When a top public official condemns their feelings as “filth,” a difficult stage of life becomes more difficult, even dangerously so. A 2021 survey found that LGBTQ youth are four times more likely than their peers to seriously consider suicide, the second leading cause of death among young people.

So much for Robinson’s protecting the children.

Attacks on the dignity and humanity of gay and transgender people are terrible from anyone, but especially so from an official elected statewide to work on behalf of all North Carolinians. That this collective rejection of people based on who they are is coming from a Black man who knows the history and the present reality of prejudice adds a dimension of sadness to his malice.

As with their indulgence of Donald Trump and his race-baiting, Republicans accept Robinson’s comments as an amusing implosion of political correctness. But he’s not blasting some liberal speech code. He’s denying the rights to which all people are entitled, even those he doesn’t approve of.

At some point, and it’s past that point, Republican leaders should condemn Robinson’s comments and the hate he encourages. Instead, they are silent.

We’ll take that as concurrence.

Voters should, too.

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Fayetteville Observer. Oct. 6, 2021.

Editorial: Harnett County schools’ decision to go ‘mask-optional’ makes no sense at all

The school board in Harnett County voted 4 to 1 on Monday night to make masks optional in the school system, against the advice of county public health officials.

The board members made a bad decision. It is not one that was a mistake, however, or a decision made between two equally valid choices. It was more like the board members saw a glowing, red eye on a stove, were told it was hot and then touched it anyway.

“It’s really sad for us, and it makes us look not so bright here in Harnett County,” Dr. Lori Langdon, a Lillington pediatrician, said afterward, according to a local TV station.

Harnett, directly north of Cumberland County, has one of the state’s lowest vaccination rates with just 35% of residents fully vaccinated, compared to the state figure of 54%. Yet its school system now joins a small minority of systems among the state’s 115 districts that chooses to take away an important measure of protection from students, teachers and staff.

The Delta variant is declining but there are still more than 2,700 North Carolinians hospitalized by COVID-19, according to figures from the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Meanwhile, social distancing in what are now full classrooms is already optional in most cases. Teachers in these classrooms can tell you distancing is not happening. Additionally, the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet available for elementary school students and many middle school students. That is not expected to happen until November, at the soonest.

Faced with the facts, a committee of the Cumberland County Board of Education voted on Tuesday morning to continue its mask policy for the school system. The full board will vote next week.

The committee members know what health officials know: Masks work. No matter how many people stand in a school board meeting and loudly repeat the fiction that they do not.

A study released last month and that involved 340,000 people was only the latest that showed the effectiveness of masks in reducing community spread. (It also found surgical masks to be more effective than cloth ones, incidentally.)

Making masks “optional” in practice means a large part of the student body will show up without them, based on their parents’ wishes.

This is not just a public health risk. Spreading the virus freely in schools will make it more difficult to keep schools and classrooms open for in-person learning. Many students will again find themselves stuck at home in remote learning.

This is the last thing anyone wants. Although most teachers did as well as they could during the 2020-21 year, the wreckage of state test results show that remote learning simply did not work for most students.

Early returns are that mask-optional policies more easily lead to shuttered classrooms. The Iredell-Statesville school system, north of Charlotte, began the year mask-optional before its board reserved course. In the meantime, it saw more than 2,000 students quarantined in a week and six schools were forced into temporary remote learning, according to The Charlotte Observer. Union County schools stuck to mask-optional last month, despite also having thousands of students and staff in quarantine.

Even in systems with mask mandates, COVID-19 presents a challenge. Sunnyside Elementary School in a rural part of Cumberland has shifted temporarily to remote learning because of an outbreak. At the time Harnett County school board members voted against masks on Monday, there were 430 of their students in quarantine. It is impossible to see how introducing fewer masks into the scenario helps any school system.

We have heard all the excuses as to why students should not wear masks. Some anti-mask activists like to claim that students suffer wearing them, which is undermined by anyone who has observed children wearing masks. What we see is that kids are still kids — except with masks on the lower half of their faces. For the small percent of students who developmentally or medically cannot wear masks, exemptions can and should be allowed.

Children are not driving anti-mask sentiment. It is the parents who either don’t like to wear masks themselves or are pained in some way to see their children in them. But that is a personal problem they may need to work through.

Then there are activists with no children in the school system who show up at board members for purposes of politics or something they saw on TV or social media. We believe that neither personal preferences nor politics should ever trump public health.

State leaders bear some blame in Harnett and other school boards’ ill-considered decision to make masks optional. Boards of education are required to vote monthly on whether to keep masks. It was a compromise between the Republican-majority General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who has generally favored more stringent pandemic restrictions.

All compromises are not good, however. This decision was made before anyone knew a small but vocal group of parents and activists would turn board meetings into battle zones over masks. In some cases, these confrontations have been whipped up by U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who even showed up at a Johnston County school board meeting, well out of his district, so long as there was a camera available to follow him.

A recent amendment to an education bill that would change that state-level decision was turned back by Republicans in the state legislature.

That leaves to school boards, each month, and to each and every member, to make the right decision for their schools and communities. Let’s hope they consult with and listen to the people in the community charged with safeguarding public health. Let’s hope they are not swayed by a vocal minority but also give an ear to parents that support safety measures.

Let’s hope they use Harnett as an object lesson in what not to do.

END