A recent op-ed has taken the plunge into the deeply concerning evaluation of democratic tendencies of North Carolina.
The U.S. is renowned for its commitment to free and fair elections. The American constitution was crafted to protect democracy and ensure that power could not be abused. The three branches of government exist as additional checks on power for one another. The freedom of the press can also act as a check on power.
After the 2016 presidential election’s results, many Americans were outraged by the fact that the electoral college gave the office to Donald Trump, despite the popular vote saying otherwise. Since then, there has been a rightward shift in U.S. politics.
There are also historical trends in some regions of the country that keep certain parties in power. For example, traditional-red states are states that typically vote Republican and have Republicans in office.
There have been organizations put in place that measure the stability and success of a democracy. One such organization is the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP), which has evaluated 213 elections across 153 countries. It is considered state of the art in “evaluating how free and fair and democratic elections are across time and place.”
What’s Happening Now:
A recent op-ed in The News & Observer called into question the idea that in the US, we take living in a democracy for granted. This op-ed was written by Andrew Reynolds, who has dedicated much of his time to organizing elections in problematic countries and under extreme circumstances and was a creator of EIP. Countries that he has worked with include Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, Lebanon, and others. The essay provides a comprehensive analysis of the election quality in any situation, examining North Carolina’s democratic tendencies.
EIP put North Carolina’s elections to the test, and the results were damning. They indicated that the state could “no longer considered to be a fully functioning democracy.” North Carolina’s score is deeply concerning, one of the worst that EIP has given.
The article states that “in the just-released EIP report, North Carolina’s overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia, and Sierra Leone. If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly free democracy.”
“Indeed, North Carolina does so poorly on the measures of legal framework and voter registration, that on those indicators we rank alongside Iran and Venezuela. When it comes to the integrity of the voting district boundaries no country has ever received as low a score as the 7/100 North Carolina received.”
Reynolds goes on to refer to other measures of democracy, such as the Freedom House, POLITY and the Varieties of Democracy project. All agree that North Carolina’s democracy is subpar.
The evaluations point to a couple of problems. First, legislative power does not depend on the votes of the people. One party can win half of the votes, but gain 100% of the power. There is also a disturbing pattern of veto-proof control. Second, democracies must not limit their citizen’s rights on the basis of their born identities, but North Carolina legislation has done so through the House Bill 2, which targetted minorities. Finally, the North Carolina government has become arbitrary and detached from popular will.
Reynolds concludes by suggesting some steps to remedy the situation. He wrote that “practically we need to address the institutional failures which have cost us our democratic ranking – districting, equal access to the vote and the abuse of legislative power.”
He added, “last, elected officials need to respect the core principles of democracy – respect the will of the voters, all the voters and play the game with integrity.”
H/T: The News & Observer