Political Notebook: Civitas poll shows distrust among North Carolina voters for 2022 elections

Published 7:40 am Monday, March 22, 2021

A Civitas Poll among 600 likely North Carolina voters signals distrust in upcoming elections, with fewer than half suspecting 2022 elections will be “free and fair.”

The poll was conducted from March 11 to March 14, and has a margin of error rate of 4%. It was conducted by the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank and nonprofit organization in Raleigh.

Of the 49% surveyed who indicated they’re confident the elections would be free and fair, 73% of those were registered Democrats and only 27% were Republicans. Nearly 11% of those surveyed were unsure. Unaffiliated voters were split on the question, with 45% indicating confidence.

The suspicion is a brewing concern that speaks to issues deemed most important to likely voters, said John Locke Foundation President Donald Bryson. When asked to choose two issues most important to them, 31% of those likely voters chose election integrity, with only jobs and economy ranking higher at 34%. Health care issues came in third at 30%, education was chosen by 24% and taxes and government spending was most important among 21% of those polled.

“It should concern everyone that nearly one-in-three voters have election integrity as a top public policy issue,” Bryson said. “Pluralities of voters over 50, low-income voters and non-college-educated voters named election integrity as a top issue. These numbers indicate that significant numbers of people question our electoral process’ foundations, and this issue will not go away anytime soon.”

The poll also showed that support for requiring photo identification in order to cast a vote remains strong among the likely voters. A total of 61% agreed it should be present, with 53% of those expressing strong agreement. Of the 34% who oppose the requirement, 26% disagree strongly.

Those findings parallel the 55% of North Carolina voters who approved in 2018 a constitutional amendment to require photo ID.

Other findings show that 52% of those polled believe the nation is on the wrong track, with only 42% saying it’s headed in the right direction. President Joe Biden’s job approval sits at 48%. Gov. Roy Cooper’s approval sits at 49%.

Bipartisan effort to enact cost-of-living adjustment for retired state employees filed in legislature 

Lawmakers last week filed a bill that would enact a cost-of-living adjustment for retired state employees to keep the value of their pensions on par with inflation.
House Bill 269 is primarily sponsored by four Republicans, but a number of Democrats have also signed on to the legislation. Both Reps. Harry Warren, R-76, and Wayne Sasser, R-67, who represent Rowan County, are signed onto the bill as well.
Richard Rogers, executive director of the North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees’ Association, said in a statement that the state’s positive economic projections make the potential for House Bill 269 much closer to becoming a reality for the roughly 230,000 retired teachers and state government retirees.
“We’ve had numerous conversations with legislators to share the need for inflation abating adjustments for our retirees,” Rogers said. “When the pandemic hit, no one knew how dire our budget circumstances would become. That said, with the state showing one of the strongest recoveries in the country, getting our retirees inflation relief, especially as we expect inflation to increase, is imperative.”
The bill would appropriate $96 million from the general fund for the next two fiscal years to provide a 2% cost-of-living raise for teachers and state retirees or their beneficiaries whose retirement commenced on or before July 1, 2020. The cost-of-living raise would go into effect on July 1 of this year.
Rep. Pat Hurley, the House joint caucus liaison who introduced the bill, said in a statement that the “time is now” to provide a cost of living adjustment.
“This week, we’re telling our state retirees they are not forgotten,” Hurley said. “We know they need relief and we’re working hard to deliver just that. We’ve raised salaries several times for our employees. Now it’s time to take care of our retirees.”
Prior to the 2008 financial crisis, the General Assembly had provided cost-of-living raises through retirement system investment gains on a regular basis, but this has not been a practice due to the lack of steady financial gains in the retirement system, Rogers said. As a result, the value of the average pension, relative to inflation, has declined by roughly 20% during that time. Rogers says he is optimistic about the legislation, and hopes it may couple with other efforts to provide government retiree tax credits and relief for government retirees who served in other branches of government.

Democrats condemn anti-Asian racism following killing of eight in Atlanta last week

State Democrats condemned last week anti-Asian racism across the nation after eight people, including six Asian-American women, were killed in Atlanta.

Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that tracks and responds to incidents of hate and violence against Asians and Pacific Islanders, received at least 3,800 reports of such incidents between March 19, 2020, and Feb. 28.

“As we come together to end the spread of COVID-19, we must come together to end racial and ethnic prejudice and violence. This year, we’ve seen an alarming increase in anti-Asian hate speech and violence and it must end now,” stated Gov. Roy Cooper in a tweet Thursday.

The News & Observer reported last week that such incidents have prompted Senate Democratic Whip Jay Chaudhuri, an Asian-American lawmaker, to reintroduce the Hate Crime Prevention Act in the state legislature. The bill was first introduced in March 2019, but it didn’t receive a hearing. The legislation would strengthen existing protections and add new ones against hate crimes based on sexual orientation and ethnicity.

“The North Carolina Democratic Party expresses our heartbreak and overwhelming feeling of loss with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” said North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Bobbie Richardson and AAPI Caucus President Gracie Galloway in a statement. “The hate, racism and violence that we’ve witnessed across the country over the past year and in recent days is disturbing and has no place in America. Sadly, we also know that this comes as no surprise for some. The Asian-American and Pacific Islander community has endured attacks and abuse for far too long. That’s why it’s on all of us to come together to raise awareness and fight for change. The General Assembly cannot ignore Senator Chaudhuri’s bill any longer. We urge our legislators to wake up and take action to stop these heinous crimes. Enough is enough.”