by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Were you surprised to learn that North Carolina’s elections are less free and fair than those in Cuba? So was the editorial board at the Wall Street Journal. (Subscribers can read the full editorial here.)
George Orwell said, probably apocryphally, that some ideas are so absurd that only intellectuals believe them, and maybe there’s a 2016 election corollary. Witness the uncritical ovation for a new study that claims elections in North Carolina are less free and fair than the likes of Cuba.
Progressives are enraged that the Republican-controlled Tar Heel legislature recently transferred some powers to the legislature from the Governor, who will be a Democrat come January. We thought the move was politically dumb, though debates about university trustee appointments and Senate confirmation for executive branch positions aren’t close to a democratic “crisis.” But don’t tell the academics who run the Electoral Integrity Project, a joint venture of Harvard and the University of Sydney.
“Our state government can no longer be classified as a full democracy,” announced the Chapel Hill political scientist Andrew Reynolds in the Charlotte News & Observer [Kokai’s note: an easy mistake to make] last week. The professor helped design the Electoral Integrity Project’s index, which ranks state and international elections on measures like the rule of law, voter registration and honest counting of the ballots. For 2016 North Carolina scored 58 on a 100-point scale, which Mr. Reynolds says “places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone.”
If the readout of your model is that North Carolina is as repressive as Cuba, maybe the problem is your model rather than North Carolina. The state is peacefully transferring power to a Democratic attorney general from a former Republican mayor of Charlotte, not deputizing the secret police. Cuba, which jails political dissidents, hasn’t transferred power since 1959, unless the 2008 presidential handoff to Raúl Castro from Fidel Castro counts. Yet Cuba rates a 56.
More remarkable still is that North Carolina isn’t the worst preforming state on the Electoral Integrity Project’s scoring system. Some 11 states are allegedly less free.