One of the major highlights of the 2018 North Carolina midterm election was breaking the NC GOP supermajority in both the NC House and Senate. Since 2012, thanks to newly gerrymandered districts, the GOP has held a veto-proof majority in both chambers. No matter how awful the bill, Governor Cooper’s veto was meaningless. The General Assembly made sure he knew it by overriding his veto 23 times in his first two years in office.
Now, thanks to record turnout and engaged voters, and with the seating of new members in the General Assembly, “GOP lawmakers can’t pass big policy items without some buy-in from Cooper or several Democratic lawmakers, because Cooper’s vetoes can’t be overturned now by Republicans alone.” (AP) We can only hope that our legislators have listened to the voters who strongly declared their desire for more balance, compromise, transparency and debate when considering legislation that affects every North Carolinian.
One interesting point we need to consider moving forward is how critical each vote is to the override process. Did you know that override votes only count from legislators present, even if they do not vote? According to PoliticsNC, this is what played out during the last week of December:
“Last week, the legislature met to determine whether to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of a bill that would change the board of elections and severely hamper the ongoing investigation of the Harris election fraud scandal in NC-09. Republicans needed 60% of the House members present to vote “Aye” to sustain the veto. It passed with little fanfare, but the GOP only had a one vote margin.
However, six Democratic House members did not show up. Had they come to Raleigh, even if they didn’t vote, Cooper’s veto would have been sustained. Republicans overrode the veto with 68 votes. Had the other six Democrats been in the room, they would have needed 70 votes. They weren’t there.”
There could be a wide variety of reasons why the Democratic house members weren’t there, and we aren’t trying to cast aspersions on them for their absence. However, it appears that the mantra of every vote counts holds true in this instance as well.
We can’t rest knowing that the supermajority is broken. We have to hold our representatives accountable for their votes, no matter what type of vote it is. We need to let our Democratic representatives know we are watching them as closely as we watch their Republican counterparts. We expect them to show up for the important votes and back Governor Cooper in these circumstances.
Regardless of the election results, our role in civic engagement must not change.