by Dr. Andy Jackson
Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, John Locke Foundation
Democracy NC is a progressive organization that is a charter member of Blueprint NC that produced the 2013 strategy memo that advocated attacking the new Pat McCrory administration with a goal to “eviscerate the leadership and weaken their ability to govern.” Seeing that they will likely not have much success eviscerating election laws in the General Assembly this year, the group plans on using “administrative advocacy” with county boards of elections.
In a video meeting with statewide members on February 9, the leadership of the organization claimed:
As for their goals in 2021, the group’s Executive Director, Tomas Lopez, admitted that the 2020 election results made it “challenging” for them to advance their agenda in North Carolina through legislation since “we have a General Assembly that looks a lot like what we’ve had for the past two years.” He said that his group will respond by planning to “emphasize the local.”
Another speaker said that the group will focus on “monitoring and advocating” at county boards of elections.
Legislators are used to hearing from advocates from all sides of issues and generally have the political experience to be able to balance what they hear from loud advocacy groups on issues with the views of a majority (silent or otherwise) of their constituents. Local officials, especially appointed officials like those on county boards of election, could be more susceptible to being influenced by the kind of manipulation that plagued the California Redistricting Commission:
The citizens’ commission had pledged to create districts based on testimony from the communities themselves, not from parties or statewide political players. To get around that, Democrats surreptitiously enlisted local voters, elected officials, labor unions and community groups to testify in support of configurations that coincided with the party’s interests.
Of course, such efforts may find futile soil with some officials who are ideological soulmates. For example, North Carolina State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell used a collusive lawsuit settlement to strip away voting integrity protections (in violation of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution) without any known prodding from progressive advocates beyond the lawsuit itself. Similarly-minded county board of elections members could be highly susceptible to the kind of “election administration advocacy” that Democracy NC will be pushing.
Conservatives should already be attending their county’s election board meetings. We have seen the impact that public participation can have on things that are (or, at least, should be) as simple as stating the Pledge of Allegiance at board meetings. While there, they should also be on the lookout for groups like Democracy NC at those meetings.