2023 Year in Review: Common Cause North Carolina
This year marked our 50th anniversary for Common Cause North Carolina. Way back in 1973, a forward-thinking group of North Carolinians created one of the first state chapters of the national Common Cause organization. Our mission of building an inclusive, multiracial democracy for all continues today.
And as we saw in 2023, our work of defending voting rights, fighting gerrymandering, and holding politicians accountable to the public is as important as ever. Here’s a look back at some of our crucial work and pivotal moments from this past year.
As we began the new year, we were just a few weeks removed from oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court in our case of Moore v. Harper. We and our partners went to the high court to stand up against a radical power grab by extremist politicians that wanted to seize control of our congressional elections in North Carolina.
That case would prove to be one of the most important in our nation’s history, with a pivotal ruling that would come in the summer of 2023.
As the 2023 state legislative session kicked off in Raleigh, our team was there, working to ensure everyday North Carolinians have a voice inside the halls of government.
Joining us at the legislature were student leaders from North Carolina’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities who came to Raleigh as part of our HBCU Advocacy Day. These outstanding students advocated for their campus communities, meeting directly with lawmakers and speaking to reporters about the importance of HBCUs in North Carolina.
In March, a new Republican majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court radically broke legal norms and undermined settled law by agreeing with the demand by Republican legislators to rehear our 2022 court victory against partisan gerrymandering.
We and our pro-democracy partners organized a People’s Rally at the Capitol the day the court reheard the case, with North Carolinians from across the state speaking up for our freedom to vote.
Outrageously, the new Republican majority on the state Supreme Court would ignore our constitutional protections and overturn the ban on partisan gerrymandering. It was one of the most disgraceful court rulings in North Carolina’s history, and it opened the door for politicians in the legislature to manipulate our voting maps once again.
But we and our pro-democracy allies made it clear that we would not be silent. We would continue the fight for fair voting maps and work to defeat gerrymandering.
As spring arrived, our Common Cause Democracy Fellows organized a nonpartisan town hall at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, with students, faculty, and advocates discussing ways to boost voter turnout among young people.
And as the state legislative session revved up in Raleigh, we launched our new “5 Things to Know” weekly video series hosted by Ann Webb, Policy Director with Common Cause North Carolina, breaking down key issues in state politics.
Meanwhile, we joined other democracy advocates in calling for a better way to draw our state’s voting maps by creating an independent citizens redistricting commission.
As summer arrived, the Republican-controlled legislature launched yet another attack on our rights, introducing two anti-voter bills.
Senate Bill 747 would harm North Carolinians who rely on absentee voting by mail and those who utilize same-day voter registration. Senate Bill 749 would impose radical changes to our election boards, opening the door to dangerous partisan gridlock that could unleash chaos in our elections and threaten to gut early voting.
We and our pro-democracy partners spoke out against these attacks on our freedom to vote.
Republican lawmakers pushed through the anti-voter Senate Bill 747 and Senate Bill 749 over the veto by Governor Roy Cooper and despite thousands of North Carolinians speaking out against these harmful proposals. Both bills are now being challenged in court.
At the end of June came good news from the U.S. Supreme Court: we won our case of Moore v. Harper, defeating a radical power grab by politicians who had tried to seize control over congressional elections in our state.
The ruling in Moore v. Harper was a true win for the people of North Carolina and for people across the nation, as the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the importance of checks and balances in our system of government.
But even with this great news, we knew our fight to protect democracy against ongoing attacks by extremist politicians would continue here in North Carolina – and we would be ready for it.
As July got under way, we kicked off our #UniteNC Town Hall tour with our initial event in Mecklenburg County.
The tour then went across the state, with people turning out and speaking up on issues that matter most to their communities, as together we work to hold lawmakers accountable to the public.
In all, more than two thousand people would attend our #UniteNC Town Hall tour in 25 towns and cities over the next four months, as we continued to build a grassroots, pro-democracy movement that will carry on in the year ahead.
As a new semester got underway in August, we convened our HBCU Think Tank with student leaders from Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the state coming to Greensboro to network and develop ways to strengthen civic participation and voter engagement in their campus communities.
Five months after the new Republican majority on the state Supreme Court outrageously agreed to let Republican legislators draw new voting maps, those legislative leaders got around to halfheartedly holding a handful of public hearings on redistricting.
In all, Republican legislative leaders held just three public hearings, a fraction of those held in past redistricting cycles, and in areas that made attendance nearly impossible for millions of North Carolinians.
The fact is, this year’s redistricting process was an absolute insult to the people of North Carolina. Politicians drew new districts in secret, rejecting calls for transparency and ignoring demands from the public for fair voting maps free from gerrymandering.
Instead, Republican legislators imposed extreme gerrymanders that undermine the rights of voters and especially violate the freedoms of Black North Carolinians.
But we would not give up. Our fight against gerrymandering would continue. More on that in a moment.
As fall arrived, so did local election season for many towns and cities across North Carolina. Our team produced nonpartisan voter guides featuring profiles on candidates running for offices like mayor, city council, and school board.
To help voters get informed and engaged for 2023 and beyond, we launched our #UniteNC “Ready to Vote” Community Education Tour, providing community members with facts on new voter ID requirements and other election law changes.
We also helped protect the vote and we encouraged participation at the polls among HBCU students.
As 2023 drew to a close, our work wasn’t finished. We at Common Cause joined a group of North Carolina voters, along with the NAACP of North Carolina, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, in filing a federal lawsuit challenging the legislature’s discriminatory gerrymandering that illegally undermined the voting rights of Black North Carolinians.
Our battle to defeat gerrymandering will continue in the year ahead. 2024 will be a critical time for our work as we mobilize voters in big cities and small towns, in communities and on college campuses across the state, helping voters make their voices heard at the ballot box like never before.
Thanks for being with us in this crucial fight for our democracy. Here’s to another 50 years of Common Cause serving the people of North Carolina.
For our entire team at Common Cause North Carolina, we wish you a happy new year. Onward!