Saturday News: The fix is in

MARK JOHNSON REJECTS COMPLAINT ABOUT COMPUTER TESTING CONTRACT: In a letter sent Wednesday, the state Department of Public Instruction said that New York-based Amplify failed to submit a protest letter in a timely fashion, on the grounds that the company missed the 15-day cutoff to lodge a complaint about the contract process. “We disagree with their assertion that this letter is untimely,” said Mitch Armbruster, North Carolina counsel for Amplify. “State law has been clear for 200 years. If the deadline falls on a weekend, it rolls over to the next Monday.” The state, in its rejection letter to Amplify, said that this particular dispute did not fall under the statutes the company cited regarding whether a weekend should count toward meeting the deadline. “I cannot emphasize enough the fact that the Department followed all laws, policies, and rules related to the RFP and contract award,” State Superintendent Mark Johnson wrote in the letter.

WILMINGTON WOMAN THROWS BUCKETS OF PAINT ON CONFEDERATE STATUES: Police in a coastal North Carolina city are looking for a woman who they say vandalized two Confederate statues. Wilmington police tell news outlets that someone threw orange paint onto the statues sometime Thursday morning. Surveillance video released by police shows the woman running up to a statue at around 3:15 a.m., dousing it with a bucket of paint and running away. Two years ago, the same statues were vandalized following a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Workers spent part of the day cleaning the paint off the two statues. Police released surveillance video of a woman they say is responsible for the vandalism.

BILL TIGHTENING ABSENTEE BALLOT RULES COULD MAKE IT MUCH HARDER TO VOTE: And in an effort to make it harder to run an absentee ballot “harvesting” operation in which campaign workers distribute and collect request forms, the bill would require voters to submit a handwritten request, “written entirely by the requester personally.” State Board of Elections executive director Karen Brinson Bell told senators July 1 that such a change would require clear guidance and education about how to request an absentee ballot. The state has required handwritten requests in the past, and often voters failed to include enough information in their request — making it a “request for a request,” she said. She also voiced concerns about a provision in the bill that would require voters to submit a copy of their photo ID with their ballot request, rather than with their completed ballot. Brinson Bell said that because ballots are returned in a secure envelope, that stage of the process could prove a more secure method of collecting photo ID information. But bill sponsor Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, said that without checking photo IDs up front, the state “could be sending out ballots for what might not be actual voters.”

TRUMP MAY USE EXECUTIVE ORDER TO PUT CITIZENSHIP QUESTION ON CENSUS: Justice Department lawyers told a federal judge on Friday that they would press ahead in their efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, but indicated they did not know yet what kind of rationale they would put forward. Just hours before, President Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House that he was considering four or five options, including an executive order, to restore the question. “We’ll see what happens,” Mr. Trump said Friday. “We could also add an addition on. So we could start the printing now and maybe do an addendum after we get a positive decision. So we’re working on a lot of things including an executive order.” The maneuvering capped a chaotic week in which administration officials first promised to abide by a Supreme Court order that effectively blocked the question from next year’s head count, then reversed themselves after Mr. Trump denounced their statements on Twitter as “fake” and pledged to restore the question to census forms.

CBP KNEW ABOUT RACIST FACEBOOK GROUP SINCE 2016: U.S. Customs and Border Protection was aware of the inflammatory Facebook page where alleged Border Patrol agents posted racist, sexist and violent images — and the agency has investigated posts from the group on at least one occasion, an official said. The office carried out an inquiry and took disciplinary action, but the official did not say how many employees were involved or what sort of discipline was dispensed. The fact that CBP officials knew the group existed — first reported by Politico — enraged lawmakers and migrant advocates. “What is profoundly disturbing is that the Border Patrol agents and leadership who posted these heinous things have power over migrants — including vulnerable women and children,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Tex.) on Twitter. “This is truly a broken agency in desperate need of complete reform.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who was the target of sexually violent posts on the Facebook page, said on Thursday that CBP officials told members of Congress the agency didn’t know about the group. “Looks like CBP lied,” she said in a tweet.