By now, you have likely heard of the vote taken in the North Carolina House of Representatives last week to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget legislation (House Bill 966), and the uproar which proceeded after that.
Several outlets and writers have covered what led up to the vote itself, and there isn’t much that I can add to those commentaries. Instead, I am curious about one item related to the vote that no one has answered: where were 38 of the 55 state House Democrats on the morning of Wednesday, September 11?
What We Know
Based on the vote totals, 15 of the House Democrats were in the House Chamber and voted “no” on the veto override.
Two Democrats had confirmed absences:
- Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson) is listed with an excused absence.
- Despite claims that all or most Democrats were at September 11 memorial ceremonies, only Rep. Garland Pierce (D-Scotland) has been confirmed to have attended one of these services. Reporters from the NC Insider, WRAL and WUNC have established the fact that he was the only Democrat at a September 11 service (despite national media claims to the contrary).
With the known whereabouts of 17 Democrats, that leaves 38 that we can’t account for during the vote.
Where were they?
An email obtained by WTVD reporter Jonah Kaplan shows a tentative schedule for House Democrats that morning.
The schedule clearly shows that House Democrats expected no votes in the 8:30 a.m. session but look at the surrounding items.
The first item is an 8:00 a.m. meeting of Democrats on the House Finance Committee. There are 13 Democrats on the House Finance Committee, and nine of them made, what turned out to be, the voting session at 8:30. Four, however, did not. Those members are Reps. Gale Adcock (D-Wake), Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg), Darren Jackson (Minority Leader; D-Wake) and Graig Meyer (D-Orange). Ostensibly, these four could have still been meeting about the House Finance Committee; however, we do not have any information to verify whether that was the case.
It is impossible to talk about the House budget veto override without talking about Rep. Deb Butler (D-Wilmington). Her tirade against Speaker Tim Moore has gone viral on social media, and she has been interviewed by several state and national media outlets, regarding that vote.
But Rep. Butler said something very intriguing that morning.
As Civitas policy analyst, Leah Byers, has reported, “While railing on the Speaker for calling the vote, [Representative Butler] says, ‘We’re downstairs right now trying to redraw partisan-heavy maps.’ (Found at the 13-minute mark on this audio from ncleg.gov).”
Were 34 to 38 state House Democrats in a room somewhere in the legislative building drawing legislative maps in a private meeting? Given the absences and the fact that the daily schedule shows a 9:00 a.m. “meeting of House redistricting Dems,” it is certainly possible.
Unfortunately, such a private meeting to draw maps may fly in the face of a recent court order (page 350, part 174) from the Common Cause v. Lewis lawsuit. The Civitas Institute has filed public records requests related to this alleged meeting.
We should note that Rep. Butler told WRAL that she misspoke. “I meant in the redistricting committee that I was headed to right after session,” she said.
But now we are left where we began. If the missing House Democrats weren’t at September 11 memorials, in the House chamber, or a private map drawing meeting, then where were they?
No one has been able to answer that question, and it’s one for which constituents deserve an answer.