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Nation & World Briefs


Thursday, December 06, 2018
North Carolina race shines light on ‘ballot harvesting’

HELENA, Mont. — An investigation into whether political operatives in North Carolina illegally collected and possibly stole absentee ballots in a still-undecided congressional race has drawn attention to a widespread but little-known political tool called ballot harvesting.

It’s a practice long used by special-interest groups and both major political parties that is viewed either as a voter service that boosts turnout or a nefarious activity that subjects voters to intimidation and makes elections vulnerable to fraud.

The groups rely on data showing which voters requested absentee ballots but have not turned them in. They then go door-to-door and offer to collect and turn in those ballots for the voters — often dozens or hundreds at a time. Some place ballot-collection boxes in high-concentration voter areas, such as college campuses, and take the ballots to election offices when the boxes are full.

In North Carolina, election officials are investigating whether Republican political operatives harvested ballots in parts of the 9th Congressional District with high numbers of Democratic voters and then did not turn them in to the local elections office. Ballot harvesting is illegal under state law, which allows only a family member or legal guardian to drop off absentee ballots for a voter.

The investigation is focusing on areas in the district where an unusually high number of absentee ballots were not returned.

2 deadly shootings send a chill through black gun owners

ODENTON, Md. — Gun-rights advocates like to say, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” Some black gun owners, though, are not so sure it’s a wise idea for them to try to be the good guy and pull out a weapon in public.

Twice in the span of 11 days last month, a black man who drew a gun in response to a crime in the U.S. was shot to death by a white police officer after apparently being mistaken for the bad guy.

Some African-Americans who are licensed to carry weapons say cases like those make them hesitant to step in to protect others.

“I’m not an advocate of open-carry if you’re black,” said the Rev. Kenn Blanchard, a Second Amendment activist and host of the YouTube program “Black Man With a Gun TV,” a gun advocacy show. “We still have racism. ... We still scare people. The psychology of fear, it’s bigger than the Second Amendment.”

The recent shootings of Jemel Roberson and Emantic Bradford Jr. amplified long-held fears that bad things can happen when a black man is seen with a gun.

Trump EPA proposes rolling back another Obama-era coal rule

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency proposed another rollback Thursday aimed at easing controls on emissions from coal-fired power plants, this time for new ones, even as warnings mount from the agency’s scientists and others about the growing toll of climate change.

The EPA’s acting administrator signed a proposal that, if approved by the Trump administration after public review, would loosen an Obama-era rule that would have required cutting-edge carbon capture techniques for new coal plants. Andrew Wheeler said the curbs on coal emissions were “excessive burdens” on the industry.

Environmentalists and scientists say this plan and other proposed administration rollbacks on pollutants from fossil fuels run counter to desperately needed efforts to slow climate change.

Thursday’s announcement comes two weeks after a report by the EPA and 12 other federal agencies warned that climate change caused by burning of coal, oil and gas already was worsening natural disasters in the United States, and would cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damage each year by the end of the century.

Asked about easing the way for new coal plants in the context of the harm from coal pollution on humans and the environment, Wheeler said “having cheap electricity helps human health.”

From Associated Press