NAACP OPPOSES EFFORTS BY GOP TO FORCE VOTER ID IN PRIMARY: It's too late to restore a photo identification requirement to vote in North Carolina for the March primary, attorneys for the state and the NAACP wrote separately on Friday, opposing efforts by Republicans to suspend a judge's order blocking the requirement. The State Board of Elections — a defendant in a lawsuit challenging the 2018 voter ID law — is already appealing U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs' order on Dec. 31 halting the use of photo ID for the time being. But the state Department of Justice, which represents the board, didn't try to overturn her preliminary injunction before the March 3 primary because it said restoring voter ID now would cause confusion. That prompted North Carolina Republican legislative leaders to file a motion Jan. 10 seeking to officially enter the lawsuit and ask the voter ID law to be enforced in the primary.
JUDGE GIVES STINGING LECTURE TO HOG FARM LAWYERS APPEALING VERDICT: Attorneys for a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, went before the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday and asked three judges to overturn a $3.25 million jury award in a lawsuit filed by neighbors of a large North Carolina hog farm. During the hearing, they received a sharp lecture from the bench about environmental justice and economic fairness. “If this were my property, I would be outraged at some of these conditions,” said Wilkinson, the court’s former chief judge. “And less fortunate fellow citizens, they have property rights too… They have a right to good health, and they have a right to enjoyment of their property.” If the plaintiffs lived in “McMansions” or had political influence, Wilkinson asked, “wouldn’t these conditions have been cleaned up sooner rather than later?” Wilkinson also alluded to the history of water contamination near large North Carolina hog operations, and to studies that have associated hog-farm emissions with health conditions like asthma. “Nobody wants another Flint, Michigan,” he said. “And this can’t be good for children’s respiratory systems.”
NC DOT IS TAKING PUBLIC COMMENTS ON 10 YEAR TRANSPORTATION PLAN: From interstate improvements to turn lanes, North Carolina’s Department of Transportation is asking residents to advise which projects they want funded over the next 10 years. A statewide public comment period to submit ideas continues through Feb. 28 for the 10-year transportation plan for 2023-2032. Residents can send project suggestions in a short, interactive survey found on the 2023-2032 STIP website. Projects can be for any type of transportation, including highway, aviation, bicycle, pedestrian, ferries, rail and public transportation. The comment period is not for maintenance, such as patching potholes. DOT’s goals are to increase safety, reduce congestion and promote economic growth. The department uses data and local input to determine which projects get funded in the 10-year plan based on a specific formula created by state law.
IOWA CAUCUS A TOSSUP, NEW RULES MAKE IT EVEN MORE CONFUSING: Polls show Biden in a tight race in Iowa with Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, as well as former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang are also competing aggressively in the state. Many campaigns were looking to a final weekend poll to provide some measure of clarity. But late Saturday night, CNN and The Des Moines Register opted not to release the survey because of worries the results may have been compromised. New caucus rules have also left the campaigns working in overdrive to set expectations. For the first time, the Iowa Democratic Party will release three sets of results: who voters align with at the start of the night; who they pick after voters supporting nonviable candidates get to make a second choice; and the number of state delegate equivalents each candidate gets. The new rules were mandated by the Democratic National Committee as part of a package of changes sought by Sanders following his loss to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primaries. The revisions were designed to make the caucus system more transparent and to make sure that even the lowest-performing candidates get credit for all the votes they receive. But party officials in Iowa and at the DNC have privately expressed concerns that but multiple campaigns will spin the results in their favor, potentially creating chaos on caucus night.
SENATE REPUBLICANS ADMIT TRUMP DID WRONG, JUST NOT WRONG ENOUGH: On Sunday, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who was a key vote against calling witnesses in the Senate trial, expanded upon his criticism that Mr. Trump was “crossing the line” in his pressure campaign against Ukraine. And Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, who has remained a reliable defender of the president during his trial, called his actions “not what I would have done.” A day before the first contest of the 2020 election, two days before Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address and three days before his expected acquittal, they and other Republicans appeared to be coalescing around a more nuanced argument: Mr. Trump’s efforts to push Ukraine into investigating a political rival while withholding critical military aid might not have been appropriate. But that did not warrant the president’s removal from office for the first time in American history. “I think he shouldn’t have done it — I think it was wrong,” Mr. Alexander said Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “Inappropriate, was the way I’d say it. Improper, crossing the line. And then the only question left is: Who decides what to do about that?” “I don’t think it’s the kind of inappropriate action that the framers would expect the Senate to substitute its judgment for the people in picking a president,” he said on Sunday.