Charles E. Richardson

The system is rigged but not in the way Donald Trump thinks it is

I’m always taken aback when I come across a statement of Donald Trump’s I can almost agree with. He said in Columbus, Ohio, and later in Harrisburg, “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest.” While I don’t agree the election will be rigged, or could be rigged, I understand why he would think so. So many things are rigged these days, it’s hard to know who to trust. In his case, it’s just the pot calling the kettle black.

Let’s stay with elections for a minute. Everyone would probably agree that elections should be fair and square, but not in North Carolina. The state has already had its hand slapped by 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals when it threw out the state’s voter ID law, which also cut early and Sunday voting.

The court said the state’s law “provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” Basically, Republican legislatures all over the country have been introducing the fake canard of voter ID to impact people of color, who usually vote Democratic, while leaving the opening for fraudulent absentee voting wide open for those who usually vote Republican.

Now comes an email from North Carolina’s 1st Congressional GOP District Chairman, Garry Terry, with the subject line “CRITICAL and CONFIDENTIAL.” Terry, according to the Charlotte News & Observer, told county Republican election board members that they “are expected to act within the law and in the best interest of the party.” He said that any early voting hours and sites beyond the legal minimum would give Democrats an advantage in November.

“We will never discourage anyone from voting but none of us have any obligation in any shape, form or fashion to do anything to help the Democrats win this election. Left unchecked, they would have early voting sites at every large gathering place for Democrats.”

Terry forgot one thing. Emails to county board of election members are subject to the state’s open records law and The News & Observer did what newspapers do.

Terry’s memo went on to recommend two options: make the “financially prudent decision” to schedule a single early voting site during weekday business hours, or “do nothing and do not meet at all.” He said the second option would result in the state automatically setting the minimum hours. In other words, make early voting as inconvenient as possible.

Terry asked board members with questions to contact him or NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse, who wrote his own memo to Republican board members calling for “party line changes” limiting early voting.

Now you know why the North Carolina legislature did what it did and the Appeals Court did what it did.

The News & Observer reported that the state elections board had to settle disputes in 33 counties — and settle them it did, and not to the liking of the state’s Republican Party. None of this should surprise. Everyone seeks an advantage, even if it’s shady and a bit crooked.

Speaking of another crooked and a rigged system, last week Wells Fargo had to pay $185 million in fines. In a wide-ranging scheme, employees would open accounts using customers’ money without permission to meet sales quotas and earn bonuses. The customers would be none the wiser until fees started piling up and they ended up in collection for accounts they didn’t open.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said 5,300 Wells Fargo employees opened 1.5 million of these fraudulent accounts and applied for 565,000 credit cards. Wow.

It shakes my faith in institutions, and in people. The bank did hire an independent consulting firm to review all the accounts opened from 2011 through 2015 and allocated another $5 million to refund any fees to customers who may have been charged for products they didn’t order, but can they repair all the credit scores that went south? Is everybody on the take?

Almost every time I open up my newspaper I’m reading about this or that business doing something unscrupulous, and it’s not just in the big city. When the Georgia Department of Insurance travels down to little old Macon and has a member of the Macon-Bibb County Land Bank Authority and a representative on the Central Georgia Joint Development Authority, Chuck O’Neal Sr., arrested on two counts of insurance fraud and one count of theft by deception, is anything sacred? I guess that’s a rhetorical question.