Reception Hosted by the NC Scholars Strategy Network

A reception hosted by the NC Scholars Strategy Network bringing together lawmakers, researchers, and students to discuss public policy initiatives.

I’d like to thank the NC Scholars Strategy Network for hosting a wonderful networking event in Raleigh this past week that brought together scholars and researchers from across our state with legislators and other policymakers to discuss how we could partner together to conduct research and to craft good public policies on behalf of our state. This wonderful, energetic group of scholars was passionate, committed, and interested in serving as a critical resource for quantitative data that can be used to support and craft good public policies. I would like to thank all of the distinguished scholars who came together for this wonderful event, but in particular Dr. Natalie Hengstebeck, Dr. Deondra Rose, and Dr. Lindsey Hanes-Maslow.

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Durham Christmas Parade 2018

A fun day full of holiday spirit at the Durham Christmas Parade 2018

I thoroughly enjoyed, and I was thrilled to participate today in Durham’s Christmas Parade. Even though this was my fourth parade this year, it was my first occasion to see and speak to Santa and to thank him for all he has done to bring joy and happiness to the lives of others. I also provided him with my Wish List for this year, which included the repeal of legislation recently passed by the NC General Assembly. I have let him know that we need to finally expand Medicaid, also, to adequately fund our education system as well as more funds to protect our environment and to pass legislation related to animal welfare. I am thoroughly pleased that Durham has brought back and continued its Holiday parade in recent years I only wish that they had far more liberal policies allowing people like me to pass on candy to the kids.

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Principled dissenters speak out against the NC Voter ID Law

Despite knowing the NC Voter ID Law would pass, a loyal group of dissenters continue to make their voices heard.

This past week, on the day that the Voter ID Bill was passed by the NC General Assembly, there wasn’t a large group of protesters assembled to voice opposition, which I had become accustomed to. Instead, there was a small group of loyal, dedicated, passionate, and vocal protesters who stood in valid decent, notwithstanding the inevitable outcome of the vote that was taken that day. I would like to thank them for their energy, enthusiasm, and commitment even though they knew that the Voter ID Bill would pass.

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The Passage of the Voter ID Law and Real Voter Fraud in Bladen County, NC

Senator McKissick discusses the passage of the new Voter ID Law and serious case of voter fraud committed with absentee ballots in Bladen County, NC.

Today, Senate Bill 824, which implements our state’s new constitutional amendment which will require voter IDs in future elections, received a final vote in the NC Senate and has now become the law of the State of NC. I fully anticipate that Governor Cooper will veto this legislation and that his veto will be overridden during this Special Session of the NC General Assembly. Today, protestors were present in opposition to our state’s new voter ID law.

There were a few changes made to the bill by the NC House, the most significant one, in my opinion, will require the NC State Board of Elections to adopt new rules relating to the requesting of absentee ballots in our state. In the future, a person will need to submit some form of photo identification when requesting an absentee ballot. I suspect that other changes could be made to the absentee ballot process. This particular change was enacted as a result of the compelling evidence of rampant voter fraud relating to absentee ballots in Bladen County, NC during the November General Election by a Republican consultant who was working on behalf of Mark Harris, who is a Republican running for Congress from the 9th Congressional District. As a result of ongoing investigations, the election results from the 9th Congressional District and from other races in Bladen County have not been certified by the State Board of Elections. I am optimistic that a new Special Election will be called for the 9th Congressional District so that we can have confidence in the outcome of that race. At this time, the Democrat, Dan McCready, is losing by approximately 905 votes, however, the Republican consultant and his team who were working vigorously in Bladen County on behalf of Mark Harris have submitted hundreds of absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications whose validity is questionable.

Today, Senate Republicans attempted to politicize the Bladen County situation by asking that Governor Cooper appoint a special task force to investigate absentee balloting in Bladen County, however, the scope of the task force’s investigation appears to be much broader than what is necessary or justified. We have a State Board of Elections which is lawfully charged with conducting investigations into the Bladen County situation as well as a District Attorney who can take action if criminal charges are necessary. That should be sufficient to address this current crisis that we are facing. We need to get the necessary investigations completed as expeditiously as possible, and, hopefully, a new Special Election can be conducted that will allow the voters of the 9th Congressional District to have a legitimate voice and Representative in Congress.

NC Free Enterprise Luncheon at the Angus Barn

Senator McKissick speaks on the importance of bipartisan cooperation at a luncheon hosted by the NC Free Enterprise Foundation

Today, I had the privilege of speaking at a luncheon held by the NC Free Enterprise Foundation to share my thoughts and perspectives on the future direction of our state and of the NC General Assembly as we move towards a new year. The other speakers for this event were Governor Roy Cooper, Speaker of the House Tim Moore, Phil Berger, the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, as well as Rep. Darren Jackson, Minority Leader in the NC House. Among the issues I addressed was the need for us to collaboratively develop policies, pass legislation, and to make appropriations which would invest in our state’s educational infrastructure as well as our physical infrastructure.
Most importantly, we must work in a bipartisan and cooperative manner for the good of our state, regardless of whether we are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. We must also chart a course for our state which addresses the urban-rural divide which has emerged between our state’s most prosperous areas, and those areas which have become economically challenged. Furthermore, we must ensure that broadband connectivity is expanded to every community in our state if we want these communities to grow, thrive, prosper, and to attract new jobs and development. In addition, it is past time for NC to expand Medicaid to provide desperately needed medical services to those who do not have them today. Currently, over 37 states have approved Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and NC is now an outlier in its failure to do so. Hopefully, in the year ahead, now that the Republicans no longer hold a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly, there will be a greater willingness to work together to face these challenges.

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The 2018 Hillsborough Christmas Parade

Yesterday, I had a great time participating in the Christmas Parade sponsored by the Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce in Downtown Hillsborough. The thing I love about this parade is that the streets are lined with people of all ages, particularly children, who are absolutely thrilled, excited, and anxiously anticipating the arrival of marching bands, dance groups, floats, and, of course, Santa Clause. This year, the Grand Marshal was Tisha Powell, who is a News Anchor for WTVD who is always visible and active in all of the communities in the Triangle. If you’ve not had a chance to attend Hillsborough’s Parade, then please be certain to check it out next year. I’d also like to thank Kim Tesoro of the Chamber of Commerce for her leadership in organizing this event.

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The Union Baptist Church Holiday Expo 2018

I’d like to thank my dear friend Eldner Lovette Arrington Degraffenreidt who, once again, did an exceptional job in organizing Union Baptist Church’s Holiday Expo. Each and every year, there are more and more people of all ages who attend this special event which brings together merchants and entrepreneurs from across Durham as well as others who sponsor exhibits for young and old alike to enjoy during the holiday season. I particularly enjoyed a group of young students from Global Scholars Academy, which is operated by Union Baptist Church Durham, who were warmly received by those attending this special event. I was given the honor of announcing a raffle ticket winner as I have during this event on occasions in the past. I hope that Union Baptist will continue to sponsor this event which provides us with an opportunity to support local businesses as well as an opportunity to share the joy of this holiday season.

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The 42nd Annual Conference of National Black Caucus of State Legislators

Senator McKissick attends the 42 Annual Conference of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators in New York.

This past week, in addition to attending a Special Session of the North Carolina General Assembly where the Senate adopted new laws to implement our state’s voter ID laws, I also traveled to New York for the Annual Conference of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL). I have been an active member of this organization for well over a decade, and I serve as Chairman of the organization’s Rules Committee.
This year, the Rule’s Committee spent hours reviewing and discussing over 35 policy resolutions which were placed before members of the organization for debate, discussion, and adoption. In addition, model legislation which had been sponsored and adopted by our members in their respective states was provided to our members who may have an interest in introducing the legislation in their own states. I was awful afraid that I might not make this year’s conference where I was scheduled to preside as Rule’s Chair over two sessions as a result of the General Assembly being in session. Fortunately, I was able to catch a flight that allowed me to honor both of my commitments which allowed me to see and learn from fellow legislators from over 30 states which attended this conference. After one long day at the conference, we were invited to Ellis Island for an evening reception. Also, during the conference, I was able to spend time with and catch up with my dear friend Rev. Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr. of the National Newspaper Publishers Association who I had not seen in quite some time. I’d like to thank all of the staff as well as my colleagues that made this conference a special occasion.

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Thomas Farr Will Not Be Confirmed as a US Federal Judge from NC

Today, there is cause for celebration since, as a result of the decision of Senator Tim Scott (R-SC)and Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), Thomas Farr, an attorney who was the architect of the 2013 Voter ID Bill in NC that was determined to be unconstitutional, will not be confirmed to serve as a Federal District Court Judge from our state. Tim Scott, an African American Senator from South Carolina said, “I am ready and willing to support strong candidates for our judicial vacancies that do not have lingering concerns about issues that could affect their decision-making process as a federal judge.”

Scott’s concerns arose as the result of a 1991 US Justice Department memo which was leaked this week which raised concerns over Farr’s role in a well-known voter suppression scheme that took place during the 1984 and 1990 of US Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) which targeted African American voters. Farr worked for Senator Helms at that time.

Civil rights groups, as well as the Congressional Black Caucus, have been opposed to Farr’s nomination for nearly a year. Farr wrote North Carolina’s extreme voter ID law in 2013, which was later struck down by a federal appeals court, and in doing so, the court found the law targeted black people “with almost surgical precision.”

A Summary of North Carolina’s New Voter ID Law

Senator McKissick shares a summary and explanation of the new NC Voter ID Law which recently passed in the NC General Assembly

Today, the North Carolina Senate passed Senate Bill 824 which implements the recently passed constitutional amendment that allows for voter IDs beginning next year. The voter ID bill that passed 2nd reading today is far broader and more expansive than the bill that was stricken down in Federal Court as being unconstitutional several years ago. The bill passed today would allow for County Boards of Elections across our state to issue Voter Identification Cards to anyone who can provide their name, date of birth, and the last 4 digits of their social security number. The bill, as originally proposed, would’ve allowed these new Voter Identification Cards to expire 8 years after issuance. Today, I was able to obtain bi-partisan support for an amendment to the bill that extended the expiration date of these ID cards to 10 years. In addition, the amendment will require local Boards of Elections to send a notice to those who have the cards advising them that their cards will expire 90 days in advance of an ID’s expiration date. In addition, the amendment would not require a voter to present an ID if they were in an area which had experienced a natural disaster within 100 days of an election. Initially, a 60-day window was proposed.

In addition to these new Voter Identification Cards, a person could present the following forms of ID:

  • A Valid NC Driver’s License
  • A Special Identification Card issued by the NC Division of Motor Vehicles
  • A Valid US Passport
  • A Valid Tribal Enrollment Card issued by a Federally Recognized Tribe
  • A Student Identification Card from a State University or Public Community College in NC
  • Student Identification Cards from Private Universities or Colleges would be accepted if they met certain standards as well
  • A Valid Driver’s License or Special Identification Card issued by another state, however, it would only be useful if the voter’s registration has occurred within 90 days of an election.
  • A Military Identification Card issued by the United States government
  • A Veterans Identification Card issued by the US Department of Veteran Affairs

All of the above forms of identification would need to be valid and unexpired, or, it must’ve been expired for one year or less, however, if a voter was 65 years old at the time he or she presented the ID, and the ID card was unexpired on the voter’s 65th birthday, then it would be acceptable.

In addition to the amendment which I ran, Senator Warren Daniel ran an amendment to correct another issue I was concerned about which involved circumstances and standards under which a voter without an ID could sign a Reasonable Impediment Declaration Form which would allow them to vote without an ID. Senator Daniel agreed to use standards that provided greater specificity than those that appeared initially in the current bill.

While I oppose a voter ID requirement, It is now, however, the law of the State of NC and a part of our state’s constitution. Therefore, our challenge is to make sure that as many people who are lawfully registered to vote today will be able to continue to vote in the future, and that their access to photo ID’s or understanding exceptions where an ID would not be required is absolutely imperative. I will continue to work to protect the cherished constitutional right to vote so that we minimize those that are hindered by this new law.