The EIP Reports That North Carolina Is No Longer Classified A Democracy, What Does This Mean

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The U.S. is down to 49 states, because North Carolina is no longer a democracy. A member of the Electoral Integrity Project (EIP) says it travels the world measuring elections in 153 countries from Afghanistan to Burma. Then North Carolina native and EIP consultant Andrew Reynolds looked at his state’s latest election.

Harvard University’s Pippa Norris set up EIP’s system, which measures 50 moving parts of an election, and Reynolds says it:

‘Is widely agreed to be the most accurate method for evaluating how free and fair and democratic elections are across time and place.’

EIP’s just-released report on North Carolina shows the state did so badly that Reynolds said “we are no longer considered to be a fully functioning democracy.” In other words N.C. is on the same stage as:

‘Authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone.’

Compared on the basis of legal framework and voter registration, the Tar Heel state ranks right along with Venezuela and Iran. But it gets worse.

As far as the EIP metric for voting district boundaries’ integrity, there is not one country in the world that scored as low as North Carolina, 7/100. EIP’s most highly respected measure of democracy is the “exercise of power depends on the will of the people.”

This is what EIP found when it comes to the legislative power not dependent upon people’s votes. The Republican party has a huge legislative majority in North Carolina, which gives it “absolute veto-proof control,” but only a minuscule advantage in the popular vote.

After politicians rigged the district boundaries, state legislators who spend their time naming the state’s carnivorous plant (Venus flytrap) have become fully “detached from democratic accountability.” That means they do not have to be responsive to the people, just their party. In fact, 45 percent of incumbent state legislators ran unopposed.

The second metric measures citizens’ rights based upon their “born identities.” North Carolina House Bill 2 focused directly on limiting African-American and Latino access to vote.

In addition, the state has:

‘Pernicious laws to constrain the ability of women to act as autonomous citizens.’

The third metric considers how arbitrary a state government is and how “detached from popular will.” This is what Reynolds said about that:

‘When, in response to losing the governorship, one party uses its legislative dominance to take away significant executive power, it is a direct attack upon the separation of powers that defines American democracy.

‘When a wounded legislative leadership, and a lame-duck executive, force through draconian changes with no time for robust review and debate it leaves Carolina no better than the authoritarian regimes we look down upon.’

He concludes that many of North Carolina’s issues are national in origin, but the state can make changes to correct its governing flaws.

So what can North Carolina do? First, Reynolds recommends:

‘Accept that in North Carolina we no longer live in a functioning democracy worth its name. We have become one of those struggling developing world states that needs to claw its way slowly toward democratic integrity.’

In addition, he recommends an independent commission, rather than the politicians, draw the district lines. The state should make “make voting as easy as possible” and “never skewed in favor of any one section of society.” Finally, he recommends that the state’s elected officials respect the will of its voters and grow some integrity.

These recommendations could be applied to each of these 50 United States. Respecting our democracy is no partisan issue. Both parties should take notice.

Featured Image: Getty Images/Sean Rayford.

H/T: News&Observer.