Protecting our democracy in North Carolina during the COVID-19 crisis
In these uncertain and stressful times, the health and well-being of our fellow North Carolinians is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. For the latest updates and information on the coronavirus in North Carolina, I encourage you to check the NC Department of Health and Human Services website.
At Common Cause NC, we’re also concerned about the health of our democracy and how we adapt our voting processes and procedures to ensure everyone can safely and securely cast a ballot in upcoming elections. While our presidential primary was already held earlier in March, there are steps the state can take to prepare for the November election and the runoff election in the Republican Congressional District 11 primary that was recently moved to June 23.
To that end, Common Cause NC and our allies sent a letter to the State Board of Elections with a set of recommendations for how elections officials can respond. One of the key recommendations is to make our absentee vote by mail process more accessible to all voters, which would include:
- make voting by mail more accessible
- increasing public promotion of the absentee vote-by-mail option
- ensuring free return mail postage on absentee ballots
Another major area that will need to be addressed is the likely shortage of polls workers. For a normal election, 25,000 poll workers are needed across our state and their average age is 70. No doubt many of these outstanding volunteers will not be comfortable working the precincts amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re asking the state to beef up its recruiting and compensation for poll workers. We need a younger and more diverse pool of volunteers at the polls.
We also recommend providing resources to ensure polling places are properly sanitized, moving precincts out of places that serve high-risk populations like retirement facilities and ensuring that all county and state boards of elections meetings are accessible to the public, even if those meetings do not happen in person.
It is crucial that the legislature approves matching funds to access federal dollars to ensure our state has the necessary resources to fully prepare for the election.
Nobody knows what the future holds or what our state, country or world will look like in November, but it’s vital that we start preparations now to guarantee every eligible voter in North Carolina is able to safely and securely cast a ballot.
I hope you and your family are staying safe and healthy. Remember, we’re all in this together.
Bob Phillips, Executive Director
and the team at Common Cause NC
House Bill 1169: A bipartisan bill to help prepare North Carolina for elections amid COVID-19
Virtual Town Hall: Protecting NC Elections Amid COVID-19
Report: NC lawmakers should take action to make absentee vote-by-mail more accessible, address looming poll worker shortage
PW special report: What NC must do to conduct a fair and safe election this fall
Common Cause NC urges legislature to take action to protect our state’s elections amid COVID-19 crisis
‘We’re one state, and we’re all in this together’: Conversations with NC lawmakers on the need for bipartisan partnership amid COVID-19
Updated letter from State Board of Elections to the NC General Assembly
State Board of Elections sends letter with recommendations to NC General Assembly
The NC State Board of Elections and the DMV now offer free online voter registration services for existing DMV customers. Learn more