Andrew Reynolds is a Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an expert on democracy and democratic systems. He's helped more than 25 nations on issues of democratic design in the past three decades. He decided to apply the classification system he developed for elections processes in 2005 to his home state. It failed.
When we evolved the project I could never imagine that as we enter 2017, my state, North Carolina, would perform so badly on this, and other, measures that we are no longer considered to be a fully functioning democracy.
In the just released EIP report, North Carolina’s overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly free democracy that is only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world.
Indeed, North Carolina does so poorly on the measures of legal framework and voter registration, that on those indicators we rank alongside Iran and Venezuela. When it comes to the integrity of the voting district boundaries no country has ever received as low a score as the 7/100 North Carolina received. North Carolina is not only the worst state in the USA for unfair districting but the worst entity in the world ever analyzed by the Electoral Integrity Project.
That North Carolina can no longer call its elections democratic is shocking enough, but our democratic decline goes beyond what happens at election time. The most respected measures of democracy—Freedom House, POLITY and the Varieties of Democracy project—all assess the degree to which the exercise of power depends on the will of the people: That is, governance is not arbitrary, it follows established rules and is based on popular legitimacy.
North Carolina fails on every score. The votes of the people do not dictate legislative power: "One party wins just half the votes but 100 percent of the power." (In 2016, Senate Democrats won 6.4 million more votes than Republicans, and look where we're at. Maybe it's not just North Carolina's democracy which must be assessed.) The state also limits "citizens’ rights on the basis of their born identities"—democracies don't do that. But North Carolina does with laws like HB2 and with voter suppression. And finally, "government in North Carolina has become arbitrary and detached from popular will."
As goes North Carolina, so goes the nation. This is the path the Republican Party has put us on. They've done it by exploiting the very institutions of our democratic republic. Somebody, like, say President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Senate Democrats should do something about that. Like saving the Supreme Court, the last institution standing.