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Federal judge to halt latest North Carolina voter ID mandate

RALEIGH — Republican attempts to require photo identification to vote in North Carolina are being thwarted again by judges hearing arguments that the mandate is tainted by bias that would deter black and Latino residents.

A federal court announced that next week U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs will formally block a photo ID requirement scheduled to begin in 2020. Unless the upcoming preliminary injunction is successfully appealed, the requirement will be halted until a lawsuit filed by the state NAACP and others is resolved.

Thursday’s short written notice from the federal court in Winston-Salem previewed Biggs’ order because state election officials were planning to expand efforts to educate voters about the ID law within days. Although the requirement would be carried out beginning with the March 3 primary, the requirement would actually start in just a few weeks with mail-in absentee ballot filers, who also would have to provide an ID copy.

The state law identified several types of qualifying photo IDs and allowed people lacking one to get a free ID card or to fill out a form while voting explaining their “reasonable impediment” to obtaining one.

GOP leaders in charge of the legislature have been trying for most of the decade to advance voter ID, saying that more than 30 states require it and it builds confidence in elections. Data show voter impersonation is rare. The voting pool — currently 6.8 million registered voters — is critical in a closely divided presidential battleground state where statewide races are often competitive.

Voter ID was actually carried out in North Carolina’s 2016 primary as the result of a 2013 law. But a federal appeals court struck down several portions of the law in July 2016, saying photo ID and other voting restrictions were approved with intentional racial discrimination in mind.

Republicans strongly disagreed with that decision and later put a question on the November 2018 ballot enshrining voter ID in the state constitution — a strategy designed to give the idea more legal and popular standing. The amendment passed with 55% of the vote. The legislature approved a separate law in December 2018 detailing how to implement that amendment. Lawsuits challenging that new law were filed immediately.

Lawyers for the state and local NAACP chapters told Biggs in a court brief that the latest version of voter ID is a “barely disguised duplicate” of the 2013 voter ID law and “carries the same discriminatory intent as its predecessor,” likely violating the U.S. Constitution.

The new rules allow additional government IDs to meet the requirement, including public and private university cards. But they still prevent government IDs for public assistance programs from being used, disproportionately affecting African Americans, the NAACP said.

The actual reasons for Biggs issuing the injunction — and whether the legislature could quickly pass a law altering the rules to resolve her concerns — won’t be known until her order is released.

State NAACP President the Rev. Anthony Spearman praised Biggs’ decision, calling the 2018 measure “the latest bad-faith attempt in a string of failed efforts by the (North Carolina) General Assembly to impede the right to vote of African Americans and Latinos in this state, and to blunt the force of the true will of the people.”

Republican House Speaker Tim Moore of Cleveland County criticized the notice Friday as a “last-minute attempt by an activist federal judge to overturn the will of North Carolina voters.” He said the ruling should be ”immediately appealed” by the State Board of Elections, which is a defendant in the case. The board is composed of three Democrats and two Republicans, all appointed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Lawyers from the state Department of Justice represented the board in court to attempt to uphold the 2018 voter ID law. They argued the rules were improved to address previous concerns of bias and the plaintiffs failed to show it was enacted with discriminatory intent. Cooper vetoed the December 2018 law, but two Democratic legislators joined all Republicans voting to override the veto.

The department declined to comment Friday about a possible appeal as it awaits Biggs’ full order, said Laura Brewer, a spokeswoman for Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein. Biggs prevented Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger from officially entering the case, saying the board was making an adequate defense.


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A look back at the leaders Guilford County lost in 2019

They were leaders, from hard-charging executives to civil rights advocates. They were pioneers, paving the way for others in everything from government to music.

As the year comes to a close, we take a look back at some of those we lost in Guilford County during 2019:

Cone Mills executive

Alan Cone, a former executive at Cone Mills, died Feb. 6, days shy of his 93rd birthday. For Cone, growing up with the Cone name meant inherited responsibility. Owners of the world’s largest denim mills, the Cone family employed hundreds of people, provided housing and gave employees credit during tough times, only requiring a signature. Cone, along with his wife, Sally, was a recipient of NCCJ’s Brotherhood/Sisterhood Citation Award. He was also an early supporter of Triad Health Project when HIV/AIDS was not a popular cause to champion.

Female World War II vet

Nina Wiglesworth-Morgan, among the first women to serve in the Marines during World War II, died March 2 at the age of 95. She was also a Gold Star Mom, who lost a son in battle. Later, she was the first female commander of the Henry K. Burtner American Legion Post 53 veterans group and one of the few women commanders in the country at the time.

Newspaper publisher

John Kilimanjaro, publisher of The Carolina Peacemaker and founder of the theater arts program at N.C. A&T and the N.C. Black Publishers Association, died March 27 at the age of 88. Despite not having a journalism background, Kilimanjaro was inspired to start The Carolina Peacemaker to give a voice to the voiceless during turbulent times and to force those in power to listen.

Auto group founder

William Vann York, founder of the Vann York Auto Group, died March 30 at the age of 91. York purchased his first dealership in 1970 and with son Greg, grew the company to 10 franchises.

Transportation leader

Former local elected official and state Board of Transportation leader J. Douglas “Doug” Galyon — after whom Greensboro’s transportation depot is named — died April 7 after a lengthy career in business, industry, community and public service. Galyon put his most indelible stamp on the Greensboro area and North Carolina as an influential member of the state Board of Transportation from 1992 through 2008.

‘Uncle Pete’Alonzo Dudley Jr., known by many as “Uncle Pete,” died April 4 at age 58. Dudley was known by those in the Tate Street area for walking everywhere. That included walking with young women to make sure they got home safely at night.

Groundbreaking doctor

Dr. Otis Tillman, who delivered some 3,000 babies in High Point during segregation and later left his fingerprints on projects that drove the local economy, died April 10 at the age of 89. Tillman is known for successfully delivering black conjoined twins in 1965 and keeping them alive when one went into respiratory failure right after birth. He wrote a book that he often gave to black medical residents, “Prescription for the Soul.”

Funkhouse performer

Greensboro’s Carlos Morales was part of a tour group that Betty Davis assembled, later known as Funkhouse. Morales, who died in May, would use his time with Davis as a launching pad to play with Julian Lennon, Natalie Cole and other well-known entertainers while living between California and London. Suffering from chronic lung disease, he came back to Greensboro in recent years where he quietly lived out the rest of his life.

N.C. Shakespeare Festival director

Pedro Silva, long-time executive director of the N.C. Shakespeare Festival, died June 14 at 71. The Shakespeare Festival operated from 1977 to 2014. The festival and Silva came to represent a spirit of artistic excellence and community commitment that occupy a revered place in High Point’s history. Silva immortalized himself with his portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge in the festival’s annual production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Pulitzer Prize finalist

Longtime News & Record reporter Stan Swofford, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, died July 16. His work spotlighted the misuse of tax dollars, government scandals and people incarcerated unjustly. Swofford’s brush with Pulitzer fame stemmed from his investigative reporting in 1976 about the unjust convictions of nine black men and one white woman for a deadly firebombing in Wilmington. His 70-plus articles about the Wilmington 10 prompted Gov. Jim Hunt in 1978 to commute their sentences to time served.

Woolworth employee

Geneva Tisdale, one the first African Americans served at the Woolworth lunch counter in downtown Greensboro, died July 15 at 86. Tisdale, a cook at the segregated lunch counter during the 1960 sit-ins, was one of four Woolworth employees who were the first African Americans served in 1960 at the lunch counter in downtown Greensboro.

K-9 officer

Greensboro police K-9 officer Rambo died in the line of duty Aug. 16. Rambo, who nabbed 25 criminals, uncovered more than a dozen discarded firearms and found evidence in 50 criminal cases, was tracking a robbery suspect through congested traffic when he was struck by a vehicle.

Exonerated man

Former Greensboro resident LaMonte Armstrong, who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for 17 years, died in August. Armstrong was freed in 2012 when new evidence emerged that he was not involved in the 1988 killing of N.C. A&T professor Ernestine Compton. Then-Gov. Pat McCrory issued Armstrong a “pardon of innocence” in 2013, leading to a subsequent payment of $750,000 from state government for his improper incarceration. The soft spoken, college educated Armstrong later won $6.42 million from the city of Greensboro and its insurers to end a civil suit that he brought in federal court.

Chief District Court judge

Lawmakers were shocked and saddened when an autopsy showed that Chief District Court Judge Tom Jarrell, 56, died Aug. 3 from an overdose of fentanyl and heroin. Jarrell was appointed a District Court judge in 1999 and as chief District Court judge in 2016. He served as president of the N.C. Association of District Court Judges and helped create Street Safe, a program that allows young people to learn proper driving techniques from law enforcement.

Three-term state rep

Thomas Gilmore Sr. loved being a politician as much as he loved plants. And his roots in both ran deep. Gilmore, who died Sept. 24 at 88, served three terms in the N.C. House of Representatives.

Community college president

N. Jerry Owens, the second president of Rockingham Community College from 1983-1996, died on Sept. 26. He was 84. Owens championed a major bond referendum to serve RCC and helped create the Rockingham Community College Foundation

Philanthropist

Susan Jarrell Edwards, 58, a member of one of the city’s most prominent families, died Oct. 2 at home on her horse farm in northern Florida. She was remembered as an engaging woman with a passion for horses, for the arts and for aiding those less fortunate. Edwards was the sister of state Rep. Pricey Harrison, great-granddaughter of Julian Price, granddaughter of Joseph M. Bryan and the daughter of philanthropist Kay Bryan Edwards and Roy Tolbert Edwards.

Former High Point mayor

Arnold Koonce Jr., High Point mayor from 1999 to 2003, died Oct. 7 at 93. Koonce left a legacy of rebuilding the city’s infrastructure, and expanding economic development and public safety. Koonce also laid the groundwork to protect residents’ interests in regional projects such as the FedEx hub and the Randleman Reservoir project.

Preservationist

Leslie Rowe Millsaps, 63, died in an Oct. 17 car crash in Davie County. She will be remembered for her work preserving historic buildings and giving to the community, colleagues and friends said. Millsaps was president of DLM Builders, a full-service home design and remodeling business owned and operated with her husband, David.

Former senator

Former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan died Oct. 28 from complications relating to a tick-borne disease. For 10 years, Hagan worked for NationsBank, which was to become Bank of America, where she became a vice president in the estates and trust division. After being a stay-at-home mother, the niece of former Florida governor and U.S. Sen. Lawton Chiles launched her own political career and won a seat as a Democrat in the North Carolina state Senate in 1998. Ten years later, Hagan sought and won the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Elizabeth Dole. She served one term. Hagan, who died from encephalitis she contracted from a tick bite in late 2016, had made several public appearances in the months before her death.

Former Koury president

Steve Showfety, chairman of the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority and former president of Koury Corp., died of brain cancer Oct. 30 at age 72. As an employee of Koury Corp., he helped Joe Koury develop such major properties as the Koury Convention Center and Grandover Resort and then managed those properties and their subsequent growth after Koury’s death.

Moses Cone leader

Dennis Barry, the hard-charging executive who transformed Moses Cone from a midsize hospital into a regional health system during his 25 years as president, died Nov. 21 at 80. During his tenure at Cone, Barry merged the hospital with Wesley Long Hospital, Women’s Hospital and Greensboro’s psychiatric hospital, creating a health care monopoly in the city. The system also bought Annie Penn Hospital in Reidsville. He was also a former president of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce.

Rearn Thai owner

Chavalit “Charlie” Chusakul, owner and operator of Rearn Thai restaurant, died Nov. 24 at 81. Chusakul and his wife, Pat, opened Rearn Thai 28 years ago after they immigrated with their two sons, Gunn and Pin, from Thailand. Before that, he worked as an accountant for the Thai embassy in the United States.

Former EMF director

Joanne Kapnek Bluethenthal, former director of the Eastern Music Festival, past president of the Greensboro Jewish Federation and a champion of social causes, died Dec. 6 at 91. Her advocacy included efforts to desegregate stores, restaurants and Greensboro City Schools.

A&T photographer

Longtime N.C. A&T photographer Charles Watkins, known for documenting milestones involving the university, died Dec. 13 at the age of 57 without ever getting the dual kidney and heart transplant he had been waiting for. Watkins was born with a rare kidney disorder that made it hard passing liquids and often leads to kidney failure. Doctors didn’t expect him to live past the age of 12.

Civil rights leader and rabbi

Civil rights leader Rabbi Harry Sky, who marched in the racially charged streets of Selma, Ala., died Dec. 14 at the age of 95. Sky shared the vision of a new American dream with Martin Luther King Jr. in the March on Washington. He preached from the pulpits of Christian congregations on the rights of African Americans, women, the gay community, the poor and the helpless. Sky, who was on Twitter into his 90s, was viewed as a giant in the American rabbi community.

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An interesting article in today's newspaper

Sickly year: From measles to Ebola, ‘it’s been a tough year for infectious diseases,’ CDC official says. Page A6