The Democracy Back Home
This story was written and published prior to the 2016 Nov. 8 election. It has been edited to reflect current events.
Though it may have been hard to believe with the 24-hour news coverage, the presidential election was not the only election taking place this year. On Nov. 8, North Carolina held elections for a myriad of positions including state legislature, senate, and governor.
North Carolina’s election was particularly significant due to the recent controversy over House Bill 2 (HB2), a bill that hands many powers previously held by local governments to the state, preventing local governments from passing non-discrimination acts. In particular, HB2 established that transgender people must use the bathroom corresponding to the gender that they were assigned at birth. Those in favor of the bill argue that it protects women from assault in bathrooms. Those against the bill respond that there are no recorded incidents of transgender people attacking anyone in a bathroom nor of people abusing non-discrimination ordinances to do so.
The Republican Party had held a supermajority making up more than two-thirds of the N.C. Legislature. A bill may be passed with support of at least half the legislature, but more than two-thirds of the legislature can overturn any vetoes made by the governor. However, their supermajority was only held by four seats. This election cycle, Democrats were eager to overturn the supermajority to allow for the possibility of gubernatorial vetoes. “That’s an unrealistic pipe dream,” said Kami Mueller, spokesperson for the North Carolina’s Republican Party. However, Grier Martin, the overseer of the House Democratic caucus races, explained that the party believed the unpopularity of Republican candidates higher up on the ticket has “provided us an outstanding chance to break the supermajority and bring balance back to state government.”
U.S. Senators serve six-year terms, but they overlap such that only one seat is available at a time. This election cycle, the two-term Republican incumbent Senator Richard Burr ran against attorney Democratic Deborah Ross.
Burr is the chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to combat terrorism. As part of this committee, allegations have been made that he helped cover up the results of inspections into CIA’s use of torture. However, Burr is also one of the strongest proponent for victim’s rights such as the Violence Against Women and the Justice for All Act. “All Americans are worthy of the protection of the law. I will always fight for those who have been the victims of crime and injustice,” he asserted.
Before becoming an attorney, Ross was the head of the North Carolina branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and served as a state representative of the Wake County district for five terms. She is an advocate for same-sex marriage, stricter gun control, and access to abortion. Ross created an open letter to high-ranking members of the North Carolina government urging them to repeal HB2.
The race was incredibly narrow, though Burr was up nearly two points in the latest polls in the time of writing.
One of the most politically charged races this election cycle was the Governor’s race between the Republican incumbent Pat McCrory and Democratic challenger Roy Cooper.
This race was particularly consequential due to the debate over HB2. McCrory was instrumental to the passage of the bill, and he remains one of its most ardent defenders. Roy Cooper, who was attorney general at the time of HB2’s passing, refused to defend the law, despite the job of the attorney general being to enforce the laws of the state.
“This is a unique and different situation,” Cooper said. “As attorney general, there are often times situations where you have to make choices with different agencies that are conflicted. Here, this is the right choice.”
Early voting in North Carolina had already begun since Oct. 20, and polls for the NC general election opened statewide on Tuesday, Nov. 8 until 7:30 PM.