Last week, Bob Hall, the Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina, the nonpartisan group that uses research, organizing, and advocacy to increase voter participation and reduce the influence of big money in politics, travelled throughout Western North Carolina to educate people on the importance of voting in the upcoming election.
According to Hall, who visited Haywood, Buncombe and Henderson counties last week, his trip was centered around the organization's mission statement which states, “We envision a government that is truly “of the people, for the people and by the people,” where barriers to vote or serve in public office are removed. We want people to have confidence in their political system and feel ownership of their government.
“I have been out talking with people about the importance of voting in the upcoming election,” said Hall. “There are currently one million people in North Carolina who are eligible to vote, but are not registered to do so. We want to see more people sign up to vote and become first class citizens and have more power in their government in order to have their voices heard.”
Democracy NC is a statewide nonpartisan organization that focuses on the goal of creating a thriving democracy in the state, one that welcomes the participation of everyone and results in a government free from corruption as well as public policies that represent the best interests of the people of N.C.
“Today, we are visiting agencies whose services cater to small children or centers for the elderly to encourage them to register their clients to vote,” Hall said last Wednesday.
According to Hall, Democracy NC, which is based in Durham, visited Western North Carolina to reach out to citizens in the rural communities. “The major cities in the state like Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston Salem, Greensboro, and Wilmington only account for 40 percent of the state's population,” explained Hall. “That means 60 percent of the state's population lies outside of the metropolitan areas, giving rural residents the majority control. Voters in Macon County and other rural areas really matter and are the ones who make a difference in the election.”
Hall explained that in the state legislature, it may very well come down to one seat that will decide the majority vote weighing in on policy issues and the state's agenda, which will affect everyone. “North Carolina is not a two-party state,” said Hall. “Politicians have to market themselves and their importance in the legislature. The majority picks the speaker and President Pro Temp, which both have enormous power to make one issue more important than the other. For example, this term school funding, counties’ investments in roads, the development of jobs, and the tax code were all brought up that way.”
One of the main issues on which Hall was educating the public during his recent trip to Western North Carolina was Democracy N.C.'s concern with voter's access during elections. “We are concerned about policies that make voting more difficult,” said Hall. “We want people to be able to fairly see and study what each candidate stands for and understand that their vote matters.”
Hall explained that Democracy NC focuses on protecting the political process. “We want to see more early voting opportunities and legislation to support same day registration to allow more people to be able to vote.”
In citing the organization's nonpartisan agenda, Hall explained that since the group's inception, they have worked with both sides of the political spectrum in order to preserve the political process. “We pushed Democrats when they were in office to pass legislation for early voting,” said Hall. “Now we are concerned with Republicans and what they have been doing being closed doors with things such as Voter I.D., which has become a policy issue that will make it difficult for countless numbers of North Carolinians to vote. It is not a valuable way to spend government resources.”
Another main focus of Democracy NC's platform is centered around open and honest campaign financing. “Unfortunately the ruling made by the Supreme Court on Citizens United allows more money to be raised and spent from wealthy interest groups and corporations, which can have a devastating impact on an election” said Hall. “Those who are able to buy another yacht, are basically able to buy an election. That is not the way America should be run, it isn't Democracy. It should be one person, one vote, not one dollar, one vote.”
Although Democracy NC does not take stances on specific policy choices in the general legislature, they do hold the General Assembly accountable while in office. “When the current leadership took office, they promised to focus on economic issues,” Hall explained. “Instead, very quickly they began focusing on social and political issues to support their party's agenda, such as redistricting and Voter I.D. Those policies will exclude more people than it will protect. Policies that promised to provide better disclosure about money they received during the campaign, some of which current legislation was forgotten about or ignored once elected in office, their broken promises were very disappointing.”
According to Hall, regardless of the issues at hand, the main focus of Democracy NC is to set an example for the generations to come. “We want people to know that we founded on the principles of Democracy,” said Hall. “We encourage people to want to stand up and be the example for the generations that will come after us.”