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Chris Cooper presents Election Landscape to the Leadership Asheville Forum

By Dasha Morgan

 Dr. Chris Cooper who spoke to the Leadership Asheville Forum on the current election landscape.  Photo courtesy of Ashley Evans.

On January 22, Dr. Chris Cooper, the Western Carolina University political science professor, spoke to a room full of members of the Leadership Asheville Forum at their monthly luncheon. The North Carolina primary has been moved to Tuesday, March 3, the earliest it has ever been, and one of 14 contests scheduled on Super Tuesday. North Carolina are now a state to watch, and many wanted to hear what Cooper had to say about the election landscape.

Cooper spoke on a number of topics all concerning this year’s election and then questions were asked by those present on many subjects. He made it quite clear at the onset that “NO, he was not going to talk about the impeachment.”

Cooper did say that North Carolina is a critical swing state in the upcoming election, and the Western part of the state has a significant role to play.

Trump’s biggest support was in the West; and Bernie Sanders’ biggest base of support is in the West. A very high number of candidates are running in the West, which makes it very competitive. Twenty seven percent (27%) of the people running for Congress in NC are running in the NC-11. The recent court-ordered redistricting will make a difference in the results, but Cooper didn’t see it as causing an overwhelming change in the voting results. The figures may change the horizon but not significantly.

He does think that the large increase in “Unaffiliated” voters would make a big difference, and even more so as years to come. An Unaffiliated voter can pick at election time, each year, which primary he or she wishes to vote in, the Democratic or Republican primary. Of course that person can only vote in one primary. However if he or she is Unaffiliated, that person doesn’t quality for office. A large number of voters throughout the United States are switching to become Unaffiliated voters, as seen recently in local elections.

Cooper spoke about the state budget and the fact that for 2020 no new budget had been decided upon. There is a stalemate between the NC legislative branch and the Governor to get it passed. He said this usually has been taken care of at least by October. We are now in late January and no state budget has been passed, which is very unusual. So what does this mean? Essentially the system runs financially as it had on the previous year’s budget, which can cause a number of problems for many. Say a school’s enrollment size has increased, nevertheless the school must continue financially with the same amount of money allotted to it.

He spoke about the importance of the voter machines, and the fact that each county selects the machine they plan to use. The machines are not uniform from county to county, although they must all be certified by the N.C. State Board of Elections.

The official redistricting map of North Carolina

Currently no voter ID is going to be needed in the primaries. A federal judge in Winston-Salem on December 31, 2019, granted a preliminary injunction that blocked North Carolina’s voter photo ID requirement from taking effect. It will remain in place until further order of the court. As for the general election, litigations on this matter are still taking place, so that is currently undetermined. Cooper seemed undecided as to the overall effect of voter ID. He seemed unclear as to whether a voter ID would really stop voter fraud or prevent cemetery dwellers from casting their fraudulent votes.

A question was asked about Dillon’s Rule versus Home Rule. The Dillon Rule is used in interpreting state law when there is a question of whether or not a local government has a certain power. Judge Forest Dillon, the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court expounded this famous rule, which was quickly adopted by many state supreme courts around the nation.

Cooper also spoke about a few of the candidates. He mentioned GOP Rep. Mark Meadows’ decision to retire from the U.S. House. By announcing this decision so late in the game, Meadows “froze out” some candidates and helped others who may have had advance notice of his retirement. Tuesday, December 17th, was the last day to pull out of the race; while Friday, Dec. 20th at noon was the last day to file for the race, with a number of hopefuls rushing to file. Primary elections are March 3. One unfortunate candidate went to the wrong county to register, while another had his check bounce. He also spoke about State Senator Terry Van Duyn’s decision to run for NC Lieutenant Governor and Representative Brian Turner’s chances with the new redistricting lines. Cooper emphasized that in this North Carolina race, there are 2,182 candidates running throughout the state, of which 547 are in the West. So the voting and elections in the Western part of the North Carolina is very important to the upcoming election. There is a lot at stake.

More About Dr. Chris Cooper

Dr. Chris Cooper is a professor and head of the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University. He has a Masters Degree and a PH.D. from the University of Tennessee. He has been a member of the WCU faculty since 2002 and head of the Department since 2011. In 2013 he was named one of the best teachers in the University of North Carolina system in recognition of his engaging and dynamic teaching style. He was among 17 recipients of the 19th annual UNC Board of Governors Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Cooper regularly wins rave reviews from his students and earns praise from his faculty colleagues as an engaging professor who is energized by his interactions with students.

Cooper is an active researcher, has written numerous articles, including editorial columns for newspapers across the state, and has made many appearances on local TV and radio stations. His talk at the Leadership Asheville Forum luncheon was both engaging and interesting.

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