Trump puts a boiling battleground in play

In pivotal North Carolina, two contentious local issues are overshadowing almost everything else.

Unlike the presidential contest in nearly every other swing state, North Carolina’s is framed this year by two local battles overshadowing almost everything else.
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There is House Bill 2 — the so-called bathroom bill which has energized young liberals and older conservatives in what’s viewed by many as a battle for the soul of the state. Then there is the furor over voting rights, which has provided Democrats with a major organizational and energy boost among African-Americans.
“The intensity that you see on the national level is on steroids in North Carolina, because not only do you have this presidential race where they’re both here all the time, you also have a highly-charged governor’s race and Senate race with the issues of HB2 and voting rights litigation all rolled up into one,

.. There cannot be another state that has that kind of intensity. It comes up in every conversation. It’s not just the insiders talking about it. It comes up on the sidelines of my daughter’s field hockey games.”

Critics Say North Carolina Is Curbing Black Vote. Again.

“It is equal to voter suppression in its worst way,” said Courtney Patterson, the sole Democrat on the Lenoir County elections board.

He was referring to a proposal by the board’s two Republicans to allow 106.5 hours of early voting before the Nov. 8 election — less than a quarter of the time allowed in the 2012 presidential election — and to limit early balloting to a single polling place in the county seat of a largely rural eastern North Carolina county that sprawls over 403 square miles.

.. In a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans by better than two to one, and four in 10 voters are black, the election plan limits voting to a single weekend day, and on weekdays demands that residents, including those who are poor and do not own cars, make long trips to cast a ballot.

Republicans, who wrote and passed the 2013 law and control all 100 county election boards, deny the rules reflect anything inappropriate.

.. “Does anybody think that Democrats did not select early voting sites and set hours to advantage their voters over Republicans?” Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of North Carolina’s Republican Party, wrote this week, referring to the days when the statehouse was in Democratic hands. “We are just attempting to rebalance the scales.”

.. given North Carolina’s history of racial discrimination in voting, Republicans could not roll back voting rules that benefited African-Americans without compelling reasons.

.. a disproportionate number of African-Americans voted early — especially during the first week of balloting that the law abolished — and that voting after Sunday church services had become an African-American tradition. Reducing the early voting period not only struck directly at black voting habits