Today’s Democracy NC analysis of the 2012 election results by gender, race and age has yielded some predictable results, but also some surprises.
The predictable: A majority of voters in Chatham, Durham, Orange and Wake counties chose President Obama over Mitt Romney. The race was close in Chatham County where Obama slipped under the wire by about 1,700 votes; however, the president won decisively in Durham County, by more than 77,000 votes.
The surprise: Wake County went for Obama by about 50,000 votes, but it also had the second-highest Republican voter turnout in the state after Mecklenburg County. Wake County also cast the most ballots statewide (488,599) and saw the third-best turnout among registered voters in the state.
First place for voter turnout goes to Chatham County, where more than three-quarters of registered voters cast ballots, compared to 68.3 percent of the state total. Chatham also had the second-highest turnout of African American voters at 76.6 percent, against a statewide 70.2 percent.
Both Wake and Chatham saw the highest registered voter turnout among women, with 76.3 percent and 76.8 percent respectively, compared with a statewide turnout of 69 percent.
Women voted in greater numbers than men in every county in North Carolina, though in Chatham, white women voted at a slightly lower percentage than white men, 76.8 percent to 76.9 percent.
Overall, black women and Republican men cast ballots at the highest proportions statewide, (74.4 percent and 72.2 percent respectively). Only in Orange County did black women vote at a lower rate (73.4 percent) than the state percentage. In Durham and Orange counties, both traditional Democratic strongholds, Republican men voted below the state percentage, at 67 percent and 66.8 percent.
Wake and Chatham counties saw the highest turnouts for voters over 65 in the state. Overall, seniors voted at higher rates than any other age group. In Durham and Orange however, people ages 18 to 25 cast more ballots than seniors, though seniors outvoted them proportionally.
Undocumented immigrants in North Carolina who have been granted a special status by the Department of Homeland Security can apply for a state driver's license if they have proper legal documentation. This is according to a opinion issued today from N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper.
You can read the opinion here: AG_letter_to_DMV.pdf
Cooper issued his opinion after the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles announced earlier this week it would cancel driver's licenses issued to 13 undocumented immigrants who are legally in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
In September 2012, then-DMV Commissioner Mike Robertson had asked the attorney general's office to weigh in on whether undocumented immigrants who had been approved under DACA could be issued driver's licenses.
In June 2012, Homeland Security established DACA, a program allowing undocumented immigrants who as children had been brought to the U.S. by their parents, to legally stay in the U.S. for two years without being deported.
These immigrants must meet certain criteria: They have to be younger than 30, have graduated from high school or are currently in school or be an honorably discharged veteran, and can't have been convicted of any serious criminal offense.
Individuals approved for this status can apply for a Social Security card and can be legally employed in the U.S.
In his opinion issued today, Cooper wrote that while these immigrants don't have legal "status," they are lawfully present. Thus, the DMV must issue a driver's license "of limited duration," to this group of immigrants who have valid documentation and meet other legal requirements.
INDY Week could not immediately reach a spokesman for the N.C. DMV. Check back for updates.
The Latin American Coalition, based in Charlotte, issued a statement from its executive director, Jess George:
"We are very happy that the North Carolina Attorney General's office has decided on a common sense solution for our state. This decision continues to move North Carolina in a positive direction and provides a shining example of how access and opportunity benefits all of our communities and the state as a whole."
The coalition is demanding that the DMV immediately reinstate the licenses it had issued and cancelled—and that it begin issuing licenses to DACA recipients.
Poor schools are getting poorer, while the rich get richer, a new study from Duke University finds.
“The average imbalance by race in North Carolina hasn’t really changed,” says Charles Clotfelter, a public policy professor who helped conduct the study. “North Carolina schools are becoming more imbalanced by economics than race. That’s something to worry about.”
It’s something to worry about because, as Clotfelter notes, schools with high percentages of low-income students find it hard to recruit and retain good teachers.
That’s a problem for low-income students, who usually perform worse on tests than their affluent peers, because highly qualified teachers have been shown to be one of the most effective tools for improving the performance of at-risk children.
Essentially, good teachers gravitate toward affluent schools, so creating high-poverty schools means setting yourself up for a dearth of good teachers in the classrooms that need them most. And, apparently, that’s what is happening across the state.
Clotfelter and a team of other researchers in Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy studied all 100 counties in North Carolina going back to 1994. They found that racial balance had stabilized since the mid-2000s, which ended a trend of schools becoming more racially segregated.
Socioeconomic data showed the reverse trend. The state’s two largest school districts, Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenberg, showed a particularly sharp divide.
Since 1994, CMS schools have become economically segregated at a rate nearly four times greater than Wake.
The comparison between Wake and CMS is particularly apt, because Charlotte and Wake both used to bus students to achieve socioeconomic diversity. CMS ended its policy in 2002, which has led to more neighborhood-centric schools.
Wake's policy ended in 2010 at the hands of a Republican majority, which had just swept into power. However, the policy was still in effect in 2010-11, the last year studied by researchers.
Wake may also move back toward a diversity model now that Democrats have regained control of the Board of Education.
The researchers rated socioeconomic balance by how much individual schools' poverty percentages lined up with the countywide percentage. Free and reduced lunch was used as the indicator for socioeconomic status.
Each school district was given a number to denote its level of imbalance—the larger the number, the more economically segregated the district. CMS scored 0.38 on the scale in 2010-11, while Wake scored 0.13. In 1994-95 the school systems had a virtually identical rate of imbalance. CMS scored 0.12 and Wake scored 0.08.
Sounding the effects of diversity in the classroom often leads to mixed conclusions. Research does not conclusively indicate that socioeconomic diversity automatically leads to better performance for low-income students, who tend to perform far worse than their affluent peers.
However, diversity does lay a good groundwork for success, given that it is difficult to retain and recruit high-quality teachers in poor schools. The conservative counterargument is often to channel additional money into high-poverty schools. Research has shown this can be effective, though liberal policy advocates tend to argue that it’s unsustainable.
Vance County, which sits along the Virginia border, is the most economically segregated school district in the state, the study concludes, with a rating of 0.46. CMS was second highest with its 0.38 rating. Chatham County schools were the seventh most economically segregated district with a score of 0.29. Durham County schools tied for that spot. Orange County schools were well down the list with a score of 0.08.
Gov. Pat McCrory picks so many winners he should play the ponies.
ALEC, also known as the American Legislative Exchange Council, is composed of at least 300 corporations and 2,000 legislative embers and is funded in part through grants by right-wing organizations, including the Charles G. Koch Foundation.
Corporate members pay as much as $25,000 a year to belong to ALEC, with additional fees assessed if the members sit on one of the nine task forces. Legislators pay just $50 annually, according to the watchdog group, ALEC Exposed.
ALEC advances its agenda through “model bills,” legislation crafted by business interests and their lawmaker allies that are then introduced in multiple states.
Previous bills include opposing EPA regulation of greenhouse gases, legalizing fracking, privatizing education, fighting against public health care and bans on semi-automatic firearms.
Until last year, Steen had represented Rowan County in the N.C. House of Representatives for four terms. He had higher aspirations for Congress that were quickly dashed when he placed fourth in a five-way race for U.S. House in the Eighth District.
While in the N.C. House, Steen was a primary or co-sponsor on 54 bills, including several that failed: “Protect Health Care Freedom,” which opposed Obamacare; a bill that would have allowed employees to keep loaded firearms in their cars—as long as the cars were locked, and another measure allowing persons with concealed handgun permits to bring a firearm into a restaurant.
Steen also was among the lawmakers behind successful measures such as the Woman’s Right to Know Act, which requires women to view an ultrasound of the fetus and to look at pictures and drawings of fetuses before undergoing an abortion.
John Skvarla, the newly anointed Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, has publicly stated that under his watch, regulations—and the relaxation thereof—will be grounded in science and fact.
In an illuminating interview with WRAL’s Laura Leslie, Skvarla failed the scientific sniff test. (The portions referenced below begin around 11:21.)
First, Skvarla insinuated that oil and gas are infinite, renewable resources. When Leslie noted that these fossil fuels are not renewable, he replied, “Some people would disagree with you. The Russians, for example, have always drilled oil as if it’s a renewable resource … There is a lot of different scientific opinion on that.”
The abiotic theory of oil, as it’s known, holds that oil is naturally produced deep underground rather than is converted from decomposed and organic material, such as plants and prehistoric forests. Abioticians (We made up that word—why not, if you can make up science?) use this theory to support the idea that we need not wean ourselves off fossil fuels because they’ll never run out.
Creationists have latched on to the theory as way to prove the Earth is only 6,000 years old.
Now Skvarla is right in that the Russians proposed this theory in the 19th century, but it has gained no legitimate, scientific consensus. That didn’t stop astronomer Thomas Gold, who revived the theory in a 1998 book.
In 2005, abiotics was explored again in Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil by Jerome Corsi and Craig R. Smith, neither of whom is a scientist.
(Corsi has a doctorate in political science from Harvard. Smith is chairman of Swiss America Trading Corporation, an investment firm specializing in U.S. gold and silver coins.)
INDY Week called Dr. John Rogers, UNC professor emeritus of geology, about abiotics. He says the idea that oil and gas are renewable resources is incorrect. “Abiotic oil is another idea that conservatives have latched onto as a way of denying that there is any limitation that the Earth places on the way we live,” Rogers says.
“The idea that there is carbon deep in the Earth is true,” he adds. “The problem is that there is very little in the deep crust in comparison to the oil that has been found and produced by decomposition.”
Rogers, who is writing a book, Rational Environmentalism, taught at UNC from 1975—1997. He says the anti-science movement has strengthened in recent years because of greed.
“If you accept the idea that the Earth puts limits on itself, you have to understand science. We can’t simply manipulate our way to wealth,” he says. “And the modern feeling is that all we have to do is adjust taxes and laws and we will be become rich.”
While we’re comparing credentials—Rogers being a geologist and Corsi being a political scientist—it should be noted that Corsi also pens columns for the conservative website WorldNetDaily, which often trafficks in conspiracy theories and misinformation. WND published the Black Gold book.
Corsi’s previous work includes two books attacking Democrats, including The Obama Nation. A bestseller, it was widely criticized for serious inaccuracies, including that Obama could claim to be a Kenyan citizen and that he was once a practicing Muslim.
Factcheck.org, which is based at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, judged it to be “what a hack journalist might call a ‘paste-up job,’ gluing together snippets from ehre and there without much regard for their truthfulness or accuracy. … A comprehensive review of all the false claims in Corsi's book would itself be a book,” Joe Miller wrote on the Factcheck.org website.
These are the minds from which abiotics sprang—and our new Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources is parading around a scientifically bereft theory.
But wait, there’s more.
If you enjoy reading instruction manuals, chances are Friday's webinar report on a long-awaited fracking study from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was a hoot.
EPA scientist Jeanne Briskin, who is helping to lead the study, explained the multi-pronged approach the agency is taking to tackle fracking, which could begin permitting in North Carolina as soon as 2014. Perhaps not coincidentally, that's when the EPA expects to issue its draft report on the environmental impacts of the controversial drilling method.
The EPA study is expected to focus on fracking's effect on groundwater, water supply and wastewater treatment. All are key issues considering the widespread reports blaming fracking for water pollution in U.S. states that already allow the drilling.
Briskin said EPA research projects include analysis of fracking chemicals (dutifully listed on FracFocus' online registry of chemicals), spills, water-use scenarios and wastewater treatment. Work is also underway to develop methods for identifying the source of water contamination, vital if environmentalists are to concretely link the drilling to pollution reports.
EPA case studies of drinking water impacts are ongoing in fracking states, such as Colorado, North Dakota, Texas and Pennsylvania, Briskin said.
Additionally, EPA officials are planning five "technical roundtables" on fracking in 2013, starting with a Feb. 25 session on analytical chemical methods in the Triangle, according to Briskin. In April, expect roundtables on well operations and wastewater treatment, followed by meets on water acquisition and case studies in June.
After the release of its 2014 draft report, there will be a period for a science peer review, after which the agency will issue its final report, Briskin said.
In the meantime, the Indy will keep tabs on the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, the group charged with readying fracking regulations. The group next meets Jan. 24-25.
Those looking for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) final word on fracking impacts will have to wait—at least until 2014.
But the EPA is hosting webinars today and tomorrow to provide a progress report on the ongoing study. By this morning, all slots were filled for today's 2 p.m. webinar, although spots remained for Friday's noon session. Register here.
According to the EPA, the webinar is going to offer updates on the study's approach and status, as well as five technical roundables held in Nov. 2012.
EPA officials say the purpose of the Congress-requested study will be to "assess the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, if any, and to identify the driving factors that may affect the severity and frequency of such impacts."
Research will key on drinking water impacts, the impacts of fracking chemicals and fracking wastewater.
The controversial drilling practice, which could begin permitting in North Carolina as soon as 2014, has been dogged by reports of groundwater contamination and other environmental impacts, such as increased seismic activity in fracking regions. Proponents, however, say the drilling will be a boon to the state's lagging economy.
Follow the ongoing work of the state's Mining and Energy Commission here. The commission and its various committees will next meet Jan. 24-25 in Raleigh.
A much-anticipated civil rights lawsuit for Alamance County's embattled sheriff is upon us.
In a statement Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice said it has officially filed a civil suit against Sheriff Terry Johnson, three months after accusing Johnson's office of racially profiling Latinos.
Following a two-year investigation of Johnson's office, DOJ officials alleged in September that Alamance deputies target Latinos for traffic stops, install checkpoints in Latino neighborhoods and vary enforcement activity based on a driver's ethnicity.
The DOJ statement came weeks after an Indy analysis of traffic stop data found Latinos were twice as likely as non-Latinos to be arrested during traffic stops, a key finding because—under Alamance's now stripped 287(g) partnership with federal customs officials—Alamance deputies could spur deportations upon arrest.
“This is an abuse of power case involving a sheriff who misuses his position of authority to unlawfully target Latinos in Alamance County,” said Thomas E. Perez, DOJ Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, in a statement Thursday. “Sheriff Johnson’s directives and leadership have caused ACSO to violate the constitutional rights of Latinos in Alamance County and eroded public trust in ACSO.”
In the release, the DOJ said Alamance "declined to enter into meaningful settlement negotiations" after the September allegations.
The DOJ goes on to say that Johnson's tactics violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Johnson's office has long maintained that there is no evidence of profiling in Alamance.
There was no white smoke flowing from Gov.-elect Pat McCrory's chimney to indicate he had selected Art Pope, one of the most powerful people in North Carolina politics, to be his new budget director. But a h/t to WRAL, which reported that the conservative millionaire will be the No. 2 man in charge of crafting the state's financial priorities.
• Higher ed? See ya. Pope and his many think tanks and foundations have long advocated for cutting funding to the state university system. (Earlier this year, Pope expanded his power base when he was named to UNC's Advisory Committee on Strategic Directions.)
• K-12? Bye-bye. Pope's campaign contributions have bankrolled the re-elections of many Republicans who want to privatize the public school system through charter schools and other sleights of hand.
• Environmental regulation and enforcement? Those efforts were chronically underfunded even during Democratic administrations. The folks at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources are probably cleaning out their desks now.
• Is there any good news? Well, unlike the bulk of his foundation and think tank operations, at least Pope's activities will now be subject to open records and open meetings laws—as long as we have them.
Problems remain, however. Recent changes to Medicaid policy have lowered the payments made to reimburse group caregivers for round-the-clock services like dressing and eating assistance. Faced with decreased payments, group home operators are worried they'll either have to evict residents or shut down altogether.
As reported by our own Bob Geary, legislators created a $39.7 million fund to assist the affected adult care homes during last year's budget negotiations. But language in the bill conspicuously excludes group homes from sharing in the money. Representative Nelson Dollar, Republican chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, has said he was not aware of the exclusion at the time.
The new plan gives lawmakers just a short window with which to come up with a permanent solution, said Perdue. Any amendments to the budget are on hold until the General Assembly reconvenes. Legislators report back to work on January 9.