- North Carolina Senate Republicans have released a comprehensive election proposal that includes provisions previously vetoed by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.
- The proposed law aims to bring administrative changes that supporters argue will improve confidence in election results.
- State Sen. said. Ralph Hise, of Mitchell County, told reporters they hoped it would restore some confidence in the voting process.
North Carolina Senate Republicans on Thursday proposed an omnibus election measure that contains provisions successfully vetoed in previous years by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper as well as other administrative changes that supporters argue will boost confidence in election results.
The legislation, which could receive a committee hearing next week, has been worked on for weeks, with input received from advocacy groups and former election officials among others, a sponsor of the bill said.
Among the vetoed items reinstated in the combined bill are those that would stop accepting some absentee ballots received after Election Day, create a process to keep more non-US citizens on the voter list and prohibit private funds from being used to run elections.
“Our hope is that this will restore some confidence to many citizens in their voting process,” said state Sen. Ralph Hise, of Mitchell County, to reporters Thursday.
Critics have called the duplicitous measures from previous years a way for Republicans to stifle voting in a closely divided state.
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“Republican lawmakers want to protect their power, not our votes,” Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, of Wake County, and House Minority Leader Robert Reives, of Chatham County, said in a prepared statement.
The measure could withstand political opposition from Cooper this year now that Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers for the first time since 2018.
A provision that was previously vetoed would eliminate the state’s three-day grace period after an election for an absentee by-mail ballot to arrive to be counted. Instead, all such ballots must be submitted to a county board of elections office, either by mail or in person, by 7:30 p.m. on election day, when the polls close. throughout the state.
“Making Election Day the official deadline eliminates confusion and uncertainty in the minds of voters,” said another sponsor of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Paul Newton, of Cabarrus County, in a statement.
Republicans will also try again to block election boards and county officials from accepting private money to administer elections. Millions of dollars from outside groups have come to North Carolina to run the 2020 election, specifically to address challenges related to COVID-19.
Republicans argue outside donations to government agencies create the impression of undue influence.
And another vetoed provision would have told North Carolina courts to send information to election officials about potential jurors who are ineligible because they are not US citizens. Eventually they will be removed from the voter list. Cooper said in his 2019 veto message that it would increase the risk that legitimate citizens would be denied the right to vote because of bad jury-excusal information.
The proposal also contains several other provisions, including a requirement that anyone who registers to vote at an early in-person voting place must cast a provisional ballot, which could be more easily challenged after an election.
The vote is tabulated only if the voter’s address is verified through the current postal process or if the person provides a qualified identification document on election day.
The proposal would also allow the public to inspect absentee ballots at meetings of county boards of elections in the weeks before an election where members decide whether ballots received should be counted.
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The bill comes as the State Board of Elections prepares to implement in time for municipal elections this fall a photo voter ID law upheld by the state Supreme Court in April.
Hise said Thursday that he met with Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who advised former President Donald Trump in his fight to overturn the 2020 election, as lawmakers consider the content of the bill.
Hise said Mitchell, who lives in North Carolina, has expressed concerns about state election administration but downplayed his influence: “We listened and we felt we addressed what we needed to address in the bill.”