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North Carolina polling stations report confrontations over Amendment One

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The North Carolina election to decide on a state constitution amendment to ban same-sex unions has emotions running high at polling stations and is the “craziest in 13 years”, according to a senior official at the board of elections in the state capital.

Gary Sims, the deputy director of Wake County board of elections in Raleigh, told the Guardian that there were “some really angry people” on both sides of the highly-charged debate.

Observers from the Republican party have sought to “challenge and confront” precinct officials from the board and were “clogging up the phone lines” back at Wake County headquarters. “This is the craziest election I’ve seen in 13 years” said Sims, at his office next to the courthouse.

“We’ve seen political party observers who are not precinct officials. They can ask to be observers. They want to challenge and confront and it’s a problem for our precinct officials.”

He said the reason for the confrontations varied, from calling up the board of elections to complain that there wasn’t a chair for them to sit on to pushing officials to get people to show ID at the polls.

“They have been clogging up the phone lines and getting mad at us,” said Sims. “People have to state their names and addresses and we check them. But they are challenging officials to make them show ID. They have an agenda, the ones that we’ve been getting trouble from.”

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When asked whether the trouble was coming from the groups for or against Amendment 1, Sims said: “Put it this way: we had zero Democratic party observers.” He added: “I’ve probably said more than I should.”

There were also problems with voters not being registered turning up to vote, he said. “We are seeing a very high turnout.” The state has already seen record number of early voters.

The outcome of the poll on Amendment 1, which would ban same-sex marriage, civil unions and would even prevent state recognition of heterosexual domestic partnerships, is being closely monitored across America.

High profile figures, including President Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton, who recorded telephone calls to voters, have asked them to reject the amendment. Opponents also held marches, put out television ads and gave speeches, including one by Jay Bakker, son of televangelists Jim Bakker and the late Tammy Faye Bakker.

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Billy Graham, the evangelical preacher who at age 93 remains influential in the state where he has a stretch of road named after him, was featured in full-page newspaper ads supporting the amendment.

Both sides spent a combined $3m on their campaigns. The latest polls predicted the measure will pass.

Twenty-eight states have already passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman. However, the amendment in North Carolina, where the state constitution already bans same-sex marriage, goes beyond current state law by preventing other forms of domestic unions from carrying legal status.

Lawyers and campaigners for the anti-amendment campaign have warned that this could cause a host of problems for unmarried couples, including erasing health benefits for the children of public employees in certain parts of the state. They also say it could disrupt protection orders for unmarried couples and impact victims of domestic violence.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012

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Senator Elizabeth Warren leads Democrats in spirited first 2020 debate

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Ten Democrats clashed in the first debate of the 2020 presidential race Wednesday with Elizabeth Warren cementing her status as a top-tier candidate and several underdogs using the issue of immigration to clamor for the limelight.

The biggest American political debate since the 2016 presidential campaign is occurring over two nights in Miami, climaxing Thursday with former vice president Joe Biden squaring off against nine challengers, including number two candidate Bernie Sanders.

But Wednesday's first take was a spirited encounter between Democrats like ex-congressman Beto O'Rourke, Senator Cory Booker, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on subjects as varied as health care, economic inequality, climate action, gun violence, Iran and immigration.

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Here are 4 winners and 9 losers from the first 2020 Democratic primary debate

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With ten candidates on stage Wednesday, the opening debate of the 2020 Democratic primary in Miami was a packed mess. And this was only the first course in a two-part event — 10 more candidates will debate on the following night.

A crowded field makes it difficult to stand out, and that means that even after a big night like a debate, the most likely result is that not much changes. But the debate was still significant, giving candidates the chance to exceed, meet, or fall below expectations for their performances.

Here's a list — necessarily subjective, of course — of the people who came out on the top when the dust was settled, and those who came out on the bottom.

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Here are 3 ways Julián Castro stood out in the first Democratic Debate

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There were many predictions going into the first Democratic debate on MSNBC, but no one predicted that Julián Castro would break out from the crowd.

Check out the top three ways Castro stood out from the crowd.

Immigration:

The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was the outright winner of the immigration section of the debate

It should "piss us all off," Castro said about the father and his little girl who were found face-down in the shores of the Rio Grande River this week. “It’s heartbreaking."

Castro is a second generation American who got into specifics on immigration policy, calling for an outright "Marshall Plan" style of action for Guatemala and Honduras. He joined with other Democrats calling for an end to President Donald Trump's family separation policy, but he then suggested ending the "metering" of legitimate asylum seekers.

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