We get the feeling Christmas is going to be extra awkward at the Woodhouse home this year.
Last week, state GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse blasted an email to Republican county boards of elections members across the state, encouraging them, in so many words, to make it harder for Democrats to vote. Actually, here are his exact words: "Republicans can and should make party-line changes to early voting. ... Our Republican Board members should feel empowered to make legal changes to early-voting plans."
This came a few days after his cousin, former Jesse Helms aide Eddie Woodhouse, was tapped to fill one of two Republican seats on the three-member Wake County elections board, an appointment that hints at just how screwy the state's system is. Whichever party controls the governor's office gets two seats on each county's board, even when that county—like Wake or Durham—tends to vote for the other team. Despite not being elected by anyone, these political hacks get to set early voting schedules and polling locations; they have a lot of leeway to tip the scales in their benefactors' favor. And that's exactly what Dallas Woodhouse wants them to do.
Republican election officials are listening.
In Wake, after a federal court ordered the state to restore seven days of early voting, the elections board decided to only open one polling place—in the entire county—for those seven days. In Mecklenburg County, early voting was slashed by two hundred hours. The board's chairwoman, Mary Potter Summa, told a crowd that she wasn't "a fan" of early voting at all. In Watauga County, the elections board decided to have only one early voting site and declined to place a voting station at Appalachian State University, because you don't want to make democracy too easy for those college kids.
And that's the point: the more inconvenient voting becomes, the less likely certain voters—especially young people and minorities, who tend to vote for Democrats—are to show up. This is a feature, not a bug.
But it's not a feature Dallas Woodhouse will cop to. After his email blew up, he put out a statement trying to temper the PR damage: "We did not send an email calling for a blanket reduction in early voting sites, as that is not our position. Every county is different, every county budget is different. The county board members are an independent body, and we have the right to lobby them as much as anybody else for Republican positions such as six-day-a-week voting, no Sunday voting, and for additional voting sites in underserved Republican areas."
Back to the Woodhouse family intrigue: Dallas's brother, Brad Woodhouse, who is president of the liberal group Americans United for Change, didn't take lightly to his brother's original missive. On Thursday, he sent some brotherly tough love in the form of (what else?) a tweet: "This is blatantly racist and completely disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself," he scolded.
The Twitter spat continued from there: Dallas telling Brad to "go bother" Democratic Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, whose state has no early voting; Brad telling Dallas, "Sorry I'm getting under your skin brother, but I've been fighting against your suppression tactics for years." And so on.
Later, Brad tried to clarify: "I didn't say and I don't believe that @DallasWoodhouse is personally racist, I believe the policies are." Which is, well, probably not enough to make the next family gathering go smoothly.
About those family gatherings: two years ago, you may recall, the brothers Woodhouse appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal to plug their documentary, Woodhouse Divided, about their politically divided family. And there, on live television, as they bickered about politics, they got a call from "Joy" from North Carolina.
"Oh God, it's Mom," Dallas said as soon as she started talking.
"I was hoping you'll have some of this out of your system when you come here for Christmas," Joyce Woodhouse told them, while the brothers shifted awkwardly. "I would really like a peaceful Christmas."
Mother still knows best, boys.