On being and seeming in North Carolina

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North Carolina’s state motto, Esse quam videri, is Latin for “To be, rather than to seem.”

For journalists who have been covering state government for the past decade, it has become a punchline of sorts.

In that time, the ruling party in state government has conflated child molestation with transphobia, turning bathrooms into battlefields; has gerrymandered the state districts so profoundly that our elections have become an exercise in politicians choosing their voters instead of the other way around; has emphasized the values of a disappearing, rural voter base while our cities are the real economic engines of the state.

The whole thing has become a joke.

Now we’ve got a Democrat governor, Roy Cooper, threatening to veto one of the four amendments to the NC Constitution that passed a voter referendum. There were six proposed amendments, remember, which might make it seem like the state’s most important document needed a major overhaul, but these were floated late in the session, and the amendments themselves were not even written when voters weighed in on them.

It’s not like his veto has any teeth — the Senate overrode his veto on the voter ID amendment on the same day.

The piece Cooper threatened to thwart on Tuesday was the elections amendment, which merges the State Board of Elections with the board of ethics, but among its Easter eggs is a provision that would affect the fiasco unfolding right now in the state’s 9th Congressional District.

That’s the one where the GOP candidate, Mark Harris, seems to have pulled a caper in Bladen County using absentee ballots — the investigation is still unfurling. The new amendment would give the GOP an opportunity to scrap Harris in a new election, which seems more and more to be the only fix here, by requiring a primary with all new candidates.

The last time we tried something like that, Ted Budd got elected.

But Cooper doesn’t take issue with that aspect. He’s more concerned about a provision that creates a cloud of secrecy over campaign-finance investigations, stipulating silence from the board on all investigations and imposing a four-year statute of limitations on investigations. He said Tuesday he’d sign the bill with that piece excised.

Seems like a reasonable request.

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