After failing to override any of Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes during the short session, legislators finally went home last week. They’re not scheduled to return to Raleigh until September 2, though the need to allocate more potential federal COVID relief funds and close the state revenue gap may require a special session in late July or early August.
Most of the vetoes left intact by the override failures dealt with legislative directives for specific businesses to reopen, despite the continuing surge in COVID-19 cases. The multiple attempted combinations of businesses targeted — bowling alleys, gyms, arcades, bars, etc. — had little to do with either the economy or public health. The bills were designed to set up campaign attacks on Cooper and his legislative supporters.
From a public policy standpoint, the major significance of the votes was to leave intact the governor’s ability to protect public health during a declared state of emergency.
On a related note, Republican legislative leaders returned to state court last week, asking judges to revive their push for photo ID requirements for in-person voting this fall. A previous ruling put voter ID on hold until after the 2020 election. Legal observers gave the latest request little likelihood of success in time to affect this election.
Voting rights advocates (including NCLCV and other citizen environmental groups) oppose voter ID as an unneeded barrier to voting. Members of poor and minority communities disproportionately impacted by pollution are also most likely to lack a qualifying photo ID.
There is no evidence that the extremely rare in-person voter impersonation fraud impacts any North Carolina elections, so requiring photo ID serves only to discourage voter participation, particularly by poor and minority voters. Citizen environmental advocates know broad voter participation is essential to holding elected officials accountable for protecting public health over polluters’ profits.