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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

The real scandal in the NC Legislature is not the one you think

There was some controversy involving the North Carolina Legislature over the last week. But Tommy Tomlinson, in his "On My Mind" commentary, says it's a different one than what you might be thinking of.

There was a strong whiff of scandal over at the North Carolina Legislative Building this past week.

No, not the sex thing involving House Speaker Tim Moore. I mean, maybe that turns out to be a big deal down the road somewhere. For now, just file it under “tawdry.”

The real scandal is what the legislature is doing to our election laws.

The Senate passed one bill the other day that would, among other things, get rid of the three-day grace period for mail-in votes that were postmarked by Election Day but arrived afterward.

Another bill would restructure the state’s Board of Elections. Right now, the governor appoints all five members of the board, based on recommendations from the state party chairs. The majority party can’t have more than three members on the board.

Under the Senate bill, the board would increase to eight members, and the governor wouldn’t appoint any of them. Instead, four legislators — the House and Senate majority and minority leaders — would pick two members each. That would make for an even Democrat-Republican split, which sounds reasonable. But here’s the catch: Tie votes would be broken by the legislature instead of the governor. That is, our currently Republican legislature over our currently Democratic governor.

The legislature already tried something similar, back in 2016 after Roy Cooper beat Pat McCrory in the governor’s race. Back then, the state Supreme Court ruled that it violated the Constitution.

This is all, of course, a giant power grab. That in itself isn’t a terrible thing — the party in power always tries to gain more power. But this cost of this particular power grab by our state’s Republican leaders could be elections that are harder to vote in and easier to rig.

The funny thing is that they’re disguising all this as a way to fight voter fraud. The fact is that serious voter fraud has happened exactly once in modern American history: the 2016 North Carolina congressional race between Mark Harris and Dan McCready. That race was thrown out and a new election held under existing law.

The Republicans pushing these bills through the legislature have met with a lawyer named Cleta Mitchell, who is best known for trying to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 presidential election. She now runs a group called the Election Integrity Network, which of course has the real goal of holding elections with as little integrity as possible.

Let’s be clear about what’s happening: A large and powerful group of Republicans — I won’t call them conservatives, because what they’re doing is anything but — is trying to pre-rig future elections by gerrymandering districts, restricting who can vote, limiting the ballots that get counted and making themselves the referees for any disputes. It’s not any great distance from there to having them just pick the winner.

We don’t need more protection against voter fraud. What we need is protection against frauds who don’t really believe in voting.

Tommy Tomlinson’s "On My Mind" column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org.It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.