A statewide machine recount of all ballots cast in the election for Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court was completed last week and showed Republican Justice Paul Newby with a lead of just 401 votes (out of nearly 5.4 million votes cast) over Democratic Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. Following the completion of this statewide recount, Chief Justice Beasley formally requested a 3% statewide hand-to-eye recount, which will begin this week. Once this partial hand-to-eye recount is completed, the State Board of Elections will review the results to determine whether a full statewide hand-to-eye recount is in order.
On Wednesday a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously to overturn last year’s district court injunction of North Carolina’s voter ID law. While this decision may make it more likely that voter ID will be required in North Carolina’s next election, it is only one step in that direction: the requirement still must receive a full trial in federal court, and an injunction from a state-level case against the requirement remains in place.
Health Care Policy
On Wednesday advocacy groups that had sued the UNC Health Care System and Nash Hospitals, Inc., for systematic discrimination against blind patients announced that a settlement had been reached with one of the two defendants. Plaintiffs had sued two years ago, alleging that blind patients did not receive written communications in a format that would be accessible to them. Nash Hospitals, Inc., agreed to pay $150,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees; the suit will continue against UNC Health Care System.
On Friday Governor Cooper convened a new bipartisan council to address North Carolina’s high rate of uninsured people. The North Carolina Council for Health Care Coverage, which includes NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen along with legislators from both parties, businesspeople, and doctors, will study other states’ health care coverage expansion policies and produce a guide to increase coverage in North Carolina.
Women’s Rights and LGBTQ Rights
On Tuesday the statewide moratorium on non-discrimination ordinances by cities and counties expired, allowing local governments to once again enact policies protecting the LGBTQ community against discrimination. The bill that expired, HB142, was initially passed as a partial repeal of HB2 -- the widely-reviled “bathroom bill.” Its expiration will also end a ban on local minimum wage raises.
On Tuesday key provisions of the Second Chance Act went into effect, allowing many North Carolinians with criminal records to have those records expunged. Nonviolent misdemeanor convictions from seven or more years ago are eligible for expunction, as well as dismissed charges or “not guilty” findings for those charged with a crime. Dismissed charges or “not guilty” findings not petitioned for expunction by those charged will be automatically expunged a year after the law took effect (December 1, 2021).