NC Senate passes bills that would hurt voters and undermine elections in North Carolina

RALEIGH – The Republican-controlled NC Senate passed two controversial bills today that would hurt voters and could undermine elections in North Carolina. The proposals now go to the NC House for consideration.

The following is a statement from Bob Phillips, Executive Director of Common Cause North Carolina, in response to today’s passage of Senate Bill 747 and Senate Bill 749 in the NC Senate:

“North Carolina is fortunate to have a secure and accessible election system that works well for voters throughout the state. But instead of building on that success, politicians in the legislature are pushing a radical agenda to impose harmful burdens on voters and election administrators – with no good reason.

Let’s be clear: Senate Bill 747 would hurt voters across the political spectrum, including Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters. The bill would especially harm elderly voters, people with disabilities and rural voters who rely on mail-in absentee voting as a lifeline for casting their ballot. North Carolinians who follow the rules and cast their ballot on or before Election Day shouldn’t have their vote thrown out because of a delay in mail delivery that’s no fault of their own.

Senate Bill 747 would also add unnecessary barriers for North Carolinians who use same-day voter registration, especially hurting people of color and young voters, who use same-day registration at higher rates than other groups.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 749 is a blatant power grab by politicians in the legislature that defies the will of voters. By a decisive 62% to 38% margin, North Carolinians emphatically rejected a 2018 constitutional amendment proposed by legislators that would have changed the State Board of Elections. Sadly, legislative leaders don’t seem to respect that clear message from voters and are trying yet again to meddle in the elections board.

These dangerous bills would make voting more difficult for people across the state and undermine our elections. We urge the NC House to reject Senate Bill 747 and Senate Bill 749. There are constructive ways that lawmakers could help voters and strengthen our election system. These two bad bills would do neither.”

More on Senate Bill 747 and Senate Bill 749:

Senate Bill 747 would create harmful barriers for voters casting an absentee ballot by mail and could result in thousands of ballots being unfairly thrown out due to delays in mail delivery.

Under current law adopted with unanimous support by the legislature in 2009, absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day can be accepted by county boards of elections up to three days after Election Day. That three-day grace period has been an important safeguard to help ensure voters don’t have their ballot thrown out because of delays in mail delivery. Notably, current Republican leaders Sen. Phil Berger and now-House Speaker Tim Moore were among the lawmakers who voted in favor of the three-day grace period in 2009.

But Senate Bill 747 would eliminate the three-day grace period for receiving absentee ballots, potentially putting thousands of voters’ ballots in jeopardy.

The bill would also add new burdens on people who use same-day registration during the early voting period, making many registrants use a “provisional” ballot and creating unnecessary hurdles for their vote to count. These changes would especially hurt people of color and young voters, who use same-day registration at higher rates.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 749 would strip the governor’s long-held authority to appoint members to the State Board of Elections, handing that power to legislative leaders.

Under current law, the State Board of Elections has five members appointed by the governor: two Republicans, two Democrats and an additional member from the governor’s party. Senate Bill 749 would instead have an eight-member board with four Republicans and four Democrats, all appointed by the legislature. The bill would change county elections boards from five members to four members, also appointed by the legislature.

Senate Bill 749 could lead to politically motivated partisan gridlock on state and county elections boards, while providing no mechanism for resolving tie votes on key issues. That could result in dangerous inaction on election administration and investigations into campaign violations.

For instance, early voting has become the most popular voting option in North Carolina. But if a divided county board of elections created under Senate Bill 749 was unable to agree on early voting locations, and a divided State Board of Elections likewise deadlocked, that county would default to having just one early voting site with limited hours of operation. That would gut early voting, overwhelm election administrators and could require county residents to travel long distances to cast their ballot early.

State courts and the voters of North Carolina have blocked past attempts by the legislature to impose changes to the structure of the State Board of Elections.

Common Cause North Carolina is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.

See More: Voting & Elections