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North Carolina editorial roundup

November 29, 2018

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Nov. 26

Winston-Salem Journal on a bill that could expand Medicaid coverage:

As many as 670,000 North Carolinians could gain sorely needed Medicaid coverage if Gov. Roy Cooper and members of both parties in the legislature will work together to help them.

Now that voters have restored some balance to the state’s power structure, that idea isn’t so far-fetched anymore. Voters elected enough Democrats on Nov. 6 to break the Republican supermajorities in the legislature, meaning that Cooper now has a credible threat of veto and Republicans won’t necessarily get their way on every issue.

Helping people in the state who lack adequate medical insurance ought to be something that everyone can agree on. That’s especially true since funding to expand Medicaid coverage is available. North Carolina is one of only 14 states that still have not accepted the federal dollars made available through the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid is the federally mandated program that provides health care to poor children and their families, seniors and disabled people. A key provision of the ACA aimed to expand that mandate to more uninsured adults who can’t pay for health care. Many of these people work low-wage jobs; some are veterans.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states couldn’t be forced to participate, and North Carolina’s leaders have thus far refused to do so. In 2013, legislators passed a law forbidding the governor to expand Medicaid without the legislature’s permission. Since Cooper took office at the start of 2017, Republican leaders, who strongly opposed the ACA, have thwarted his attempts to expand Medicaid. One of their excuses is that they fear the federal government won’t provide all the money it has promised. That’s ridiculous.

There are, however, signs of bipartisan support for some form of expansion. Last year, Republicans, including Donny Lambeth of Forsyth County, introduced Carolina Cares, a bill that would expand Medicaid coverage while including a work requirement and modest premiums. Some Democrats signed on as co-sponsors. Senate leader Phil Berger and his colleagues made sure there was no action on the bill during the 2017-18 sessions. They didn’t even allow the sponsors to explain their plan.

One of their stated objections is the fear that expansion would be too expensive for the state, but that rang hollow in July, when the Senate killed a bipartisan House bill that simply would have allowed a study of the cost. It’s uncertain whether federal regulators would approve the Carolina Cares approach, but the first step is to pass a detailed bill.

Lambeth says he plans to introduce Carolina Cares again next year. That bill may not be the ideal approach to expanding Medicaid, but a debate on its merits could at least get things moving. It also may help that the state is making progress in talks with federal regulators to switch its Medicaid program to a managed-care system with a “whole body” approach rather than the current fee-for-service system, something Republicans have wanted.

Cooper had it right when he said after the recent election that Medicaid expansion shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Leaders — including Republicans — in most other states have managed to cooperate on Medicaid expansion for the good of people who need the help. North Carolina’s leaders should find a way to do the same.

Online: https://www.journalnow.com/

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Nov. 27

The News & Observer of Raleigh on a Voter ID bill:

Voter ID laws are an awful way to protect the integrity of elections. They address a problem that isn’t a problem — the North Carolina board of elections found one case in 4.8 million votes cast in 2016 that photo ID would have addressed — and they disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of potential voters who don’t have the documents, money or time to obtain an ID.

Voter ID is even more troublesome in the hands of North Carolina’s Republican legislators, who have shown a remarkable capacity to craft voting laws that are unconstitutional, racially discriminatory and inevitably slapped down by federal judges. Still, NC voters decided this month to give the legislature another try, approving an amendment to the NC Constitution that allows lawmakers to draw up a new voter ID law without having to get the governor’s approval.

Those lawmakers will begin hammering out details Monday at a joint House-Senate committee meeting, where they will go over a draft of a bill released last Tuesday. That draft is an improvement on a strict 2013 voter ID law that ultimately was struck down in federal court, but lawmakers can still do a better job not only protecting against voter fraud, but the possibility of North Carolinians being blocked from voting.

Here’s how an unnecessary law can be made at least a little better:

? Accept a wide range of IDs: The draft bill accepts many IDs not included in the 2013 law, including IDs at schools in the University of North Carolina system. Lawmakers should include IDs from all colleges and community colleges in the state, and the language of the bill should ensure that no students have to get new IDs, as happened in Wisconsin when lawmakers put specific requirements on the student IDs the state would accept. ... On Monday, at least one lawmaker, Republican Rep. David Lewis, talked about private colleges creating new IDs. It’s unnecessary, and it would likely result in fewer young voters.

? Make getting an ID easy: We’re encouraged that the draft bill allows prospective voters to get a photo ID by providing their address and last four digits of their Social Security number. That shouldn’t change. Elderly and poor North Carolinians should not have to endure the expense and red tape of getting documents they might not have, such as birth certificates. Also: IDs — and replacements for expired IDs — should be free of charge. It will cost struggling North Carolinians enough to go through the time and effort to get them — one study showed that voters in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas paid from $79-$172 to get “free” voter ID cards.

? Allow for exceptions: The draft bill allows for voters unable to get a photo ID to make a “reasonable impediment” declaration to photo ID and cast a provisional ballot. That’s good, but voters with a valid impediment should be able to cast regular votes. That would place less of a burden on county boards of elections, and if impediments are considered valid, there’s no reason to discourage voters by requiring a provisional ballot. ...

? Paper ballots: ... Security experts are urging states to go back to paper ballots and remove touchscreen voting machines that are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Nearly two dozen states have done so. North Carolina should.

Online: https://www.newsobserver.com/

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Nov. 28

The Charlotte Observer on the state elections board delaying finalizing 9th Congressional District election results:

What’s going on in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District? An election certification is being held up. The person behind the delay is being a bit coy about it. The public is in the dark. That needs to change — and soon.

The state board of elections refused Tuesday to certify the results of the 9th District race, in which Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. That certification was expected to be routine, but election board member Joshua Malcolm raised a last minute issue concerning the 9th and asked board members to remove the results from the list of those to be certified.

Malcolm, a Robeson County Democrat, cited a statute that allowed the board to do so, but he declined to be specific about what caused him to raise his objection. That, in itself, is troubling.

Here’s what we do know:

We know that board members twice voted 9-0 not to certify the 9th District results. That means the board, which consists of Democrats and Republicans, was overwhelmingly persuaded of the seriousness of Malcolm’s concerns.

We know that Republicans believe the issues originate in Bladen County, which Harris won by 1,557 votes. We also know that Bladen has what can charitably be described as a colorful political history of alleged arson and fraud.

We know that Malcolm’s move Tuesday was a surprise. Neither campaign knew it was coming, which indicates that it likely doesn’t involve an election day complaint of fraud, at least not one significant enough to cause McCready to call for an investigation before conceding this razor thin result.

Malcolm’s comments Tuesday also seem to indicate that the issues troubling him are ongoing. “I am not going to turn a blind eye to what took place to the best of my understanding which has been ongoing for a number of years that has repeatedly been referred to the United States attorney and the district attorneys for them to take action and clean it up,” he said. “And in my opinion those things have not taken place.”

Those comments raise serious concerns that Malcolm may be holding up a Congressional election result because of a longstanding problem and not necessarily one that affected the outcome of this race. Malcolm isn’t saying, but he needs to, and there are plenty of questions he can answer without jeopardizing an investigation. Such as: Are there specific instances of voter fraud in this midterm election that are part of his complaint? Are they widespread enough to change the 9th District results? Is he merely trying to get the attention of investigators he feels have been ignoring serious long-term issues?

If that’s the case, mission accomplished. Now stop it. Holding a Congressional election hostage is not the appropriate way to resolve longstanding issues, regardless of how serious he believes they might be.

We’re in a fragile period regarding elections in this country. We have a president too ready to declare — even just this week — that results he doesn’t like are tainted. It’s become too common for members of both parties to question the legitimacy of outcomes they don’t like.

Joshua Malcolm and the board certainly might have legitimate concerns about fraud or other malfeasance that may have directly changed the outcome in November’s 9th District race. If so, they owe the public more specifics, immediately. If not, this is neither the time nor manner to raise them.

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/

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