Saturday, October 22, 2016


By Cash Michaels

On the first day of early voting, I can honestly say I certainly earned my “I VOTED EARLY” sticker, in more ways than one.
To my surprise after I dropped my daughter KaLa off at middle school, there was a long line at my polling place, the Herbert C. Young Community Center in Cary.
I hate long lines for anything, but I had just told my 13-year-old about how inspiring it was to cover the 2008 presidential election, and to see all of the older black citizens - some with canes and walkers, some in wheelchairs, come out and do something they never thought they'd have the opportunity to do in their lifetime - vote for the first black president of the United States. The memories of that still warm my heart.
I vowed that if they could make it to the polls to prove their citizenship and right to be heard, then I had no business waiting 20 days until the last minute. I needed to take the time NOW! So I was determined no matter how long the line was, to park my car, wait, and cast my ballot. Determination and duty were going to see me through.
Too bad common sense wasn't part of my equation. When I drove up to the Young Center, they had parking folks as always directing all traffic to the parking deck entrance. I should have asked for the handicapped parking area since I'm a stroke/cancer victim who still has some difficulty walking.
No, instead I never gave any of that any thought. So I just drove where they directed me to without asking any questions. BIG MISTAKE! I ended up not parking near the first floor where I wouldn't have to walk far, but on the top level.
Because of my hindered left leg, I decided to walk back down through the deck driveway, realizing that to get to the building, I'd have to take the stairs to the bottom level and then walk over.
No, I didn't fall down the stairs (Thank GOD), but once I left the stairwell, I looked ahead to see where the voting line was so I could walk all the way over and take my place in line to wait.
In doing so, I didn't look down to see that I was not on the ground, but a platform you had to step off of to the ground. By the time I realized that, all of sudden there was no there there, and I was placing my considerable weight on nothing moving forward, my 304 lb. immense body stumbling forward uncontrollably.
I immediately tried to almost dance my way down, hoping I could slow my barely standing stumble so I wouldn't hit the ground, but it was too late. With no cars parked anywhere near, and only a cement wall to stop me if i went too far. I ended up slamming to the cement parking deck floor HARD.
Luckily I put my left arm out to brace my descent, but it was still a hard tumble that cut up my arm pretty bad. Yes I was stunned for moment. I don't fall much, so when it does happen, it IS an experience.
I laid there for a moment to assess if I broke anything (I could have), but after moving my arm up and down, I realized I was damned lucky. Now all I have to do is get up and walk down to get in line, I thought.
Except that I COULDN'T GET UP. I do have problems with both legs getting up out of chairs and sofas because of the stroke two years ago, so getting up off the ground was near impossible. That meant I had to swallow my overblown pride and seek help.
Silly me! Here I am, on the ground sitting up as not one, not two, but three cars leaving the parking deck come down where i am and pass me going out, each driver seeing me without question. Why would I think ANY of them would slow down after seeing a 300 lb. black man in a tee-shirt on the ground with a bleeding arm obviously in trouble, and ask if I needed help? I didn't expect them to stop or get out of their cars or anything. JUST ASK!
Nope. Finally I realized I better swallow my pride and actually call out to the next car to please advise the police that I'm injured back here, which is what I did.
Soon the precinct supervisor and another lady walked back, asked if I needed an ambulance or 911. I assured them I didn't, just wanted to have my wound attended to stop the bleeding, get off the ground, and be able to vote, then be taken back to my car at the top (which I was steadily cussing myself out for).
The supervisor's name was Peggy, and her assistant was Carol. Those two ladies took care of my wound, determined that I was now eligible for curbside voting (well I was disabled), signed me up (I'm still on the ground now) and finally got two strong men to help me to my feet so I could finally walk over to where all of the action was, which I did. After going to the special section where curbside voting was officially being done on the other side of the parking deck, they got me a chair, gave me my ballot to fill out, and were super nice to me.
At one point I thanked the lady behind the table for allowing me to vote out of turn. She responded, "Of course, sir. After all, you did shed blood today to do it." Amen, Ma'am. AMEN!
When I finished, I noticed an elderly couple who were also waiting for their ballots. The man had a walker, and the workers got him a chair. His wife, who apparently was also his caretaker, was standing, however, because there were no more seats.
Yes, folks had bandaged me up and my arm was still hurting, but the way my mother reared me hurt me even more. So as soon as I handed my ballot to Carol, since I had to wait for her to walk inside to put it in the machine for me, I decided to stand and give my chair to the lady. Clearly the couple, (they were elderly and white) were shocked, and tried to refuse, but I insisted, bringing the chair to the  lady to sit in.
At that point, the poll worker who was behind the curbside voting table saw what I did, got up, and insisted I take her seat after she brought it to me, saying she had no problem standing doing her job.
These were good moments of decency that made everyone feel good.
One of the men drove me to my car at the top of the deck, and I paused for a breath once i got behind the wheel of my car. My right hand had dried blood on it from the wound on my left elbow. My left knee felt a little banged up as well. But all in all, I VOTED, and had my sticker, given to me by Carol, to prove it.
So the next time someone talks about "Our forefathers bled for our right to vote," you tell 'em, "Yeah, Cash Michaels did too."
And I was proud to do it!


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            At least three early voters report that after casting electronic ballots for Hillary Clinton for president at the New Hanover County Government Center Saturday, the touch-screen machine displayed that their votes actually tabulated for Republican Donald Trump. The voters were subsequently able to correct the mistake after reviewing their on-screen e-ballot, but now there is concern that the electronic voting machines are not recording votes accurately in five counties so far, and that has drawn the attention of the state NAACP conference.
            These machines do not produce paper ballots, and have to be electronically calibrated each day of use.
            “The machine is not working, and people are groaning on it. That’s just as bad as suppressing the vote when the vote is not counted properly, ”Rev. Kojo Nantambu, Director of Religious Advocacy for the NCNAACP, told WECT-TV, further adding that legal action may be forthcoming.
            The North Carolina NAACP has now received reports from NC NAACP membership in at least 5 counties that, in some instances, electronic voting machines may be malfunctioning and improperly identifying a voters’ selected choice as a choice for a different candidate,” a press release from the civil rights organization stated earlier this week. “Voters report that they have experienced this problem voting on ballot items that include, but are not limited to, the Presidential ballot. In all instances of which we are currently aware, voters were able to fix the problem by reviewing their choices and fixing the error before submitting their electronic ballots.”
            The release went on to indicate that the NCNAACP would be investigating “all complaints received by our members.” Rev. William Barber, president of the NCNAACP, went on to say that they “are gravely serious at this time about protecting the voting rights of North Carolinians. No voter should feel intimidated in this election or concerned that your vote will not count.”
            “Any voter who experiences a problem with a voting machine, or other problems that leave you worried about whether your vote has been correctly counted are to immediately call the national voter protection hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE. You can also text your information directly to the NC NAACP at 1-919-308-9085,” the release added, noting that every voter has the right to review their e-ballot before submitting it in the voting machine to be counted. All voters have the right to request a paper ballot instead of using the electronic machine.
            The four counties beyond New Hanover where problems with the e-voting machines have been reported are Cumberland, Iredell, Mecklenburg, and Catawba.
            The NC Board of Elections says in response that it is “aware” of the “concerns” and reports about the touch-screen electronic voting machines, and further acknowledged problems with them in the past.
            “…[W]e take them very seriously,” the NCBOE press response says.
            The electronic touch-screen voting machines in questions are the Ivotronic direct record brand, manufactured by Election Systems & Software Co. (ES&S), that has logged in so many problems over the past ten years that the North Carolina Legislature passed a 2013 law effectively outlawing them by 2018, requiring machines that produce paper ballots instead.
            In many counties across the state, Ivotronic machines are used only for early voting, not on Election Day. New Hanover County has 112 of them, but uses them for the disabled on Election Day.
            Brunswick and Pender counties also employ the Ivotronic machines, as do an estimated one-third of the state’s 100 counties.
            Research shows Ivotronic machines have reportedly been “vote flipping” candidates and political parties in elections in states like Pennsylvania, Texas, Florida and West Virginia, among others. A November 2010 report from Fox News indicated that the NC Republican Party “…sued to force election workers to notify all voters of problems with the machines, preserve all ballots and personal electronic programs and have voting officials keep detailed records of all complaints at voting stations.”
            An October 2002 report from Florida International University showed the Ivotronics machine malfunctioned in 15.4% of Miami-Dade County voting precincts with less than 50% black voters, and in 27.7% of polling places with 50% of black voters or more.



by Cash Michaels

            [RALEIGH] In an exclusive interview with North Carolina’s African-American press, Hillary Clinton said even though she is running to benefit all Americans, the first woman expected to be elected president of the United States on Nov. 8th does have a special focus on working with the African-American community and its leaders – both local and national - to improve employment, business, education, and other important quality of life issues.
            “I want to pay particular attention to Americans who feel left out and left behind by the economy, or the situation in their communities,” the former First Lady, senator and US secretary of State said Sunday at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, during perhaps one of her last sit-down interviews of the campaign.
 “I’ve laid out a really extensive agenda for African-Americans, starting with improving the economy so that its producing more jobs for more people; raising the national minimum wage – [we’ve] got mostly women earning minimum wage, often times being the sole support of their children, and they deserve a better economic opportunity,” she said. Mrs. Clinton also cited more affordable housing as a need.
She maintained that getting equal pay for women as a “particularly big issue for African-American women,” adding that black female small business owners are “the fastest growing segment of the small business world in our country.”
“[But] they’re running into credit… [and] regulatory problems. We’ve got to look at those, not just from a 30,000-foot view, but right down on the ground. What is it that stands in the way of men or women getting their businesses going?”
Improving higher education not only through the proposal she and Sen. Bernie Sanders have developed to make public universities “tuition-free” for students from families making $125,000 or less, but also creating a “dedicated $25 billion fund” to help private historically black colleges and universities like St. Augustine’s and Shaw universities to continue to grow.
After reading that one in five North Carolina homes have no access to the internet, noting that they are disproportionately African-American or Latino, Mrs. Clinton said emphatically, “I want to fix that,” continuing that those families are left out of so many economic and educational opportunities as a result.
            “Taking on systemic racism,” something she has “talked very openly and specifically about,” is something Clinton added to her pronounced agenda for African-Americans. She points towards reforming the criminal justice system “from end to end” to help stem the tide of questionable fatal police shootings of black people, improving police training, and building greater respect between law enforcement and the African-American community.
“I particularly want to provide more diversion from the criminal justice system and more second chance programs for people who have paid their debt to society so that we begin to reverse what has been an over incarceration that has really disrupted communities.”
“But I also have to do more to heal the divides that we face in our country, and I’m taking all of this on because I want to build on the progress that Pres. Obama has made. I don’t want to see it reversed or ripped away.” And yet, a “President” Hillary Clinton’s approach would be from “a different perspective that will hopefully get even more people listening,” she says.
Clinton certainly disagrees with Donald Trump’s assessment that African-Americans “live in hell,” instantly exclaiming, “Oh that’s so wrong,” and then adding “One of many insulting, divisive comments that Trump made was his characterization of African-American communities. It just shows he’s never been in any, he doesn’t know any people, he has no idea of the dynamism of small business or the importance of historically black colleges and universities, or the role that black churches play, or black professionals, and every walk of life.”
            “He has characterized in such a negative way what I see as a part of America that has a lot going for it, but [also] has some challenges that we must honestly address. “
            Clinton expressed support for South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn’s  “10-20-30” plan – ten percent of federal funds should go to the twenty percent of communities that have been living with generational poverty and lack of development for thirty years. Clinton says she’s developed a plan that not only implements 10-20-30 into the federal budget, but also the empowerment and enterprise zones that helped build black businesses under President Bill Clinton’s “New Markets” tax credits to be able to further invest, and hire people within their communities.
            Mrs. Clinton said she’d like to see “a much bigger effort” when it comes to upgrading skills training so that more people can actually qualify for the 1.2 million available jobs in the marketplace. She says she wants to accomplish this challenge literally on a “neighborhood by neighborhood” basis, working with local officials, businesses and faith leaders who know the most about their own communities, and bring different perspectives to the table.
            Clinton lauds President Obama’s leadership in getting the country out of the greatest financial crisis since the great Depression – an economic collapse she says was caused by a combination of huge tax breaks for the wealthy, and Republicans taking the regulatory eyes off of Wall Street and the financial markets. Clinton says that Obama “doesn’t get the credit that he deserves for pulling us out of that big ditch.”
            She credits the president’s “steadiness” in guiding the economy with a substantial stimulus and recovery package and the reinstatement of a higher tax rate on the wealthy, all resulting in over 75 consecutive quarters of economic growth. Last year until now, Clinton adds, more people are finding work, incomes went up and more people are entering the jobs market.
            “I want to build on that foundation,” Mrs. Clinton says of Pres. Obama’s achievements, “and I don’t want to see it ripped up and thrown away by a false ideology that the way you create economic wealth and equality in America is top down. I think its middle out, and bottom up. I will build on what the president has done.”
            When asked if “President” Hillary Clinton’s US Justice Department would continue to pursue the strengthening of voting rights, keeping in mind the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the Republican-led NC General Assembly deliberately suppressed African-American voters with “surgical precision,” Clinton immediately said, “Yes, a hundred percent.”
            She furthered that she was “proud” of the efforts of both US Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch and her predecessor, Eric Holder, to beat back unconstitutional voter ID laws in North Carolina and across the nation. However Clinton also blasted the US Supreme Court for striking down Section 4(b) of the 1965, effectively taking away the Justice Dept’s most effective tools in policing how various states are upholding the 1965 Voting Rights Act [VRA].
            Clinton lamented that the High Court crippled the VRA, especially since Democrats and Republicans in the US Senate when she served voted 98-0 to renew the VRA, and then-Pres. George W. Bush signed it.
            “I want to appoint people to the [US] Supreme Court who understand, based on what you read in the Fourth Circuit [and other court findings against Republicans trying to suppress the vote]. I also want to go back to Congress and try to get legislation to fix the heart of the Voting Rights Act…” noting that Congressman John Lewis  (D-GA) is leading a bi-partisan effort now “…to reinstate the full reach and power of the VRA.”
            Mrs. Clinton is currently leading in the polls over Republican Donald Trump. Today she joins First Lady Michelle Obama during a rally in Winston-Salem.
            Her husband, Pres. Bill Clinton, led a bus tour throughout eastern North Carolina Tuesday and Wednesday this week campaigning for his wife.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Saying that North Carolina “cannot be let off the hook,” the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus compared the plight of the embattled residents of Princeville – the historically black Edgecombe County town that has been destroyed by floodwaters twice in 17 years – with the tribulations of predominately-black Flint, Michigan, where residents discovered their drinking water was polluted with lead because state government refused to spend the money to purify their supply.
            “The state bears responsibility,” Congressman G. K. Butterfield declared in an exclusive interview about the growing needs of the 2200 residents of Princeville and surrounding areas ravaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew three weeks ago. While some federal disaster relief assistance is on the ground, and Rep. Butterfield [D-NC-1] and colleague Rep. David Price [D-NC-4] plan to introduce legislation in Congress for more appropriations targeting Princeville, he makes clear that Gov. McCrory and state lawmakers must do more.
            “We learned that in Flint, Michigan, and the water crisis [there],” Butterfield said, adding, “”We’re not talking negligence here. What we’re talking about is a natural disaster, and the [state] government has some money in reserve for natural disasters, and the rainy day fund needs to be utilized to some degree.”
             “So state and federal, it has to be a coordinated effort between both of these entities,” Rep. Butterfield continued, “and I support [the North Carolina state lawmakers] who have joined together to call for a special session of the legislature.”
            “It has to be a joint [state and federal effort] and no one gets a free pass,” said Rep. Butterfield. “What better way to use a [state] surplus than to help families who have been displaced by a natural disaster. I think this is a big deal, and is deserving of a special session of the legislature, because this is a 500-year flood that has come to our state and caused $2 billion in damage, and more than 25 individuals who have died. The least the legislature can do is to come to town for a day or two, and legislate sensibly on this natural disaster.
            There are those who believe Gov. McCrory is hoping that the federal government and private charities can fill in the financial and public assistance gap in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew flooding until the NC General Assembly reconvenes in January.
The 2200 residents of Princeville certainly hope not, and during a contentious meeting with their elected leaders Monday night at the Edgecombe County administration building, angrily expressed their frustration with not being allowed to return to their homes., and needing more assistance now.
Over 80 percent of Princeville was submerged under approximately ten feet of polluted floodwater before it was pumped out. However many of the homes and government buildings were destroyed in the process, left uninhabitable with toxic fumes and wastes.  Now many of those homes have been condemned, leaving those residents without a place to live.
It is the second time in 17 years that Princeville has been ravaged by a massive flood, and many there have decided to leave, saying that rebuilding again is too risky.
            At least 20 of the over 30 counties crippled in the aftermath of Matthew are eligible for disaster unemployment assistance, and federal financial assistance, including temporary housing after victims leave shelters.
            But as the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd proved in 1999, the mounting needs will go far beyond housing, food and lost employment, and the federal government will require North Carolina to shell out hundreds of millions in matching funds in order to get full disaster assistance for property buyouts, relocation and maintaining public health.
That’s why many state leaders agree that the $12-18 million in the state’s disaster relief fund is not nearly enough, and the governor needs to call a special session immediately to at least supplement the relief fund out of the $1.6 billion rainy day fund, or the $200 million in surplus budget savings, until lawmakers can consider a final bill.
Thus far, McCrory has refused to do so, preferring to wait until January.
            I do think there should be a special session at some point, which should be as soon as reasonably possible,” House Minority Leader Larry Hall says. “In December 1999, 2.5 months after Floyd hit, the legislature had a special session and appropriated $836 million for relief.  We can learn a lot from that experience, and should apply those lessons here.”


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