A diamond in the feces

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It’s nonsense, of course, that an emergency session of the state legislature could result in so much pettiness, payback, hypocrisy and straight-up face-slapping — all in the name, ironically, of disaster relief.

But here we are.

As of press time, the most egregious example of GOP overreach is enshrined in SB 4, “Bi-Partisan Ethics, Elections & Court Reform.” Bear in mind, though, that another special session has already been called for Wednesday, ostensibly to repeal parts of HB 2, though at this point it wouldn’t be all that surprising to find language in the text of that bill giving the General Assembly the power to appoint city mayors.

It’s easy to be cynical after our latest legislative coup; but nestled in the mounds of excrement that comprise SB 4 is a new entity that might be of real value, like a thing you’ve accidentally swallowed and decided is worth fishing out of the toilet after all.

In more than a decade of covering North Carolina elections, our news team realized early on that the state elections apparatus is woefully inadequate to the task of investigating real election fraud. We’re not talking about people voting without ID or trying to vote twice, but actual election fraud, which happens through absentee ballots, strategic targeting of precincts on Election Day, dirty tricks by candidates, falsified campaign finance reports, vote-buying and other established methods of disenfranchisement or, as the case may be, super-enfranchisement.

Nestled in the mounds of excrement that comprise SB 4 is a new entity that might be of real value, like a thing you’ve accidentally swallowed and decided is worth fishing out of the toilet after all.

For most of this century, the State Board of Elections has employed but a single investigator, and he without teeth, to cover all 100 counties.

SB 4 seeks to create an independent, nonpartisan state elections board, the slim margin of which alternates every year — it’s tilted against the party in power by giving them authority only on odd-year elections. It has subpoena power, and the authority to open investigations formerly ceded to county district attorneys.

It’s not involved in redistricting — in fact it’s specifically barred from having any input into the drawing of districts. That might be too bad, considering that our legislators seem incapable of carving up our state in a way that won’t get thrown out by a court.

It may not seem like much, but as of press time it’s all we’ve got. Now, on to the next special session! If we push it, we could probably fit three more in before Roy Cooper is sworn in as governor next month.