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February 28, 2019
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February 28, 2019
AP-NC Newswatch





Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EST



N Carolina operative charged in congressional ballot case
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The rural North Carolina political operative who for nearly a decade delivered votes for candidates who paid him and stayed just out of reach of ballot-protection laws is facing criminal charges.
Leslie McCrae Dowless had stayed just out of reach of ballot-protection laws, but on Wednesday he was charged with illegal ballot handling and conspiracy in the 2018 Republican primary and in the 2016 elections. Four people who’d worked for him were also charged.
North Carolina law makes it illegal for anyone other than a voter or their immediate family to handle a mail-in ballot.
The charges came less than a week after the state elections board decided his work on behalf of Republican Mark Harris, starting with the 2018 primary, tainted the GOP candidate’s apparent November victory in the 9th Congressional District.
The board ordered a new election but hasn’t set a date.



Officials to open office for residents to get REAL IDs
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles says it’s opening an office in Fayetteville to allow residents to get their REAL IDs more quickly.
A news release from the division says the first REAL ID Day is scheduled for Saturday at the South Fayetteville driver license office.
People visiting the South Fayetteville office will be able to get a REAL ID in an express transaction taking less than 20 minutes. People will also be able to get driver licenses or ID card renewals, duplicates or convert existing driver licenses or ID cards to REAL IDs. First-time ID cards will also be available.
Starting in October 2020, people will be required to have a REAL ID or valid U.S. passport for flying, entering federal facilities and visiting military installations.



Legislators give final OK to keep Court of Appeals at 15
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina Court of Appeals should remain at 15 judges with legislation now heading to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk that repeals a 2017 law Republicans pushed that would reduce its seats to 12.
The House gave final legislative approval to the measure on Wednesday. It should end litigation Cooper filed challenging the law, which directs three judgeships be eliminated as vacancies arise. No eliminations have yet occurred.
A trial court panel upheld the law last spring. The litigation was expected before the state Supreme Court on Monday. Those arguments were postponed at the request of GOP lawmakers and Cooper. Their court filing said Cooper would likely sign the repeal legislation.
Democrats hold a strong majority on the Supreme Court, raising uncertainty whether the 2017 law would be upheld.



Land condemnation limit for constitution clears House again
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina House is taking another crack at putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would affirm when state and local governments are prohibited from take private property against the owner’s will.
The chamber voted 94-21 on Wednesday for the proposed amendment on eminent domain, which could be placed on the statewide ballot in March 2020. The House has passed similar proposed referendums several times since the 2000s, but the Senate hasn’t gone along.
The language makes clear condemnation of private property by state or local governments is barred except for a “public use.” The issue gained interest following a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
The amendment also would enshrine in the state constitution the right to receive a jury trial to determine compensation for condemned land.



Second suspect arrested in killings of 2 on New Year’s Day
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – Authorities In North Carolina say a second person wanted in the deaths of two people has been apprehended in Texas.
Durham police said in a statement that 20-year-old Jose Manuel Vargas-Regino was arrested Tuesday night in Presidio, Texas by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. Vargas-Regino is charged with two counts of murder, and is in the Brewster County, Texas, jail awaiting extradition.
Police arrested 18-year-old Jonathan Cabrera one week after the shootings and charged him with accessory after the fact of murder. He’s currently free on $50,000 bond. It’s not known if he has an attorney.
According to police, 24-year-old Murilio Zurito Domingo and 26-year-old Bertin Vasquez Mendoza were both shot and killed. News outlets report the double-homicide was among three fatal shootings in Durham on New Year’s Day.



Protective order issued against North Carolina lawmaker
BREVARD, N.C. (AP) – A state judge has issued a long-term protective order against a North Carolina state legislator after determining text messages that his now-estranged wife received amounted to “mental harassment.”
News outlets report Judge Fritz Mercer granted on Tuesday the domestic violence protective order requested by the wife of two-term Rep. Cody Henson of Transylvania County. A temporary order had been issued a few weeks ago.
Mercer said none of Henson’s texts were threatening but reflected “somebody who does not want this marriage to be over.”
Kelsey Henson had asked for help to keep her and the couple’s children safe. Mercer’s order is effective until next January.
Cody Henson didn’t return a phone call or email seeking comment on Wednesday. Earlier this month, Henson described the situation as a family matter.



Walmart is getting rid of greeters, worrying the disabled
As Walmart moves to phase out its familiar “greeters” at some 1,000 stores nationwide, disabled workers who fill many of those jobs say they’re being unfairly targeted.
Walmart told greeters around the country last week that their positions would be eliminated on April 26 in favor of an expanded, more physically demanding “customer host” role. To qualify, they will need to be able to lift heavy objects and perform other physical tasks.
That comes as a heavy blow to greeters with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other disabilities. Now Walmart, America’s largest private employer, is facing a backlash as customers rally around some of the chain’s most highly visible employees.
Walmart says it is striving to place greeters in other jobs at the company, but workers with disabilities are worried.



April 30 congressional primary set after Walter Jones’ death
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Gov. Roy Cooper has set election dates to fill an eastern North Carolina congressional seat left empty after this month’s death of Republican Rep. Walter Jones Jr.
Cooper’s proclamation Wednesday directs 3rd Congressional District primary elections for April 30, based on candidate filing next week.
The general election would be July 9. But a primary runoff would be held that day instead, if a leading candidate in a primary doesn’t get more than 30 percent of the vote. In that case, the general election would be Sept. 10.
The state elections board will meet Monday to set new elections for the 9th Congressional District. The board schedules those for the 9th because it declared last week they were necessary following absentee voting fraud testimony in last fall’s race.



AP-WF-02-28-19 1120GMT