House leaders in bipartisan support, have moved forward with a house bill containing changes to the state’s election rules due to the pandemic. House Bill 1169, contains many measures requested by the State Board of Elections and voting rights advocates to help the state prepare for conducting a safe election for voters during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill will be reviewed by the House Election and Ethics Law Committee on Wednesday. This bill marks the first legislation addressing the issue of voting amid the pandemic, after the General Assembly’s COVID-19 relief package failed to ignore the critical concern.
The (House) bill won’t make Election Day a holiday, and it won’t cover postage costs on absentee ballots, both state board requests.
The bill would forbid the board from going to an all-mail-ballot election in November, something the State Board of Elections has not requested but has been a concern for conspiracy theorists nonetheless. Mail-in ballots are already available in North Carolina to any voter who requests one, and they would remain so.
“I think it’s been a long time since we’ve had a bipartisan elections bill,” Harrison said Thursday. “But this has like 90 percent of what the state elections board asked for. … It seems to be a really good basis for protecting the 2020 election.”
Since March, the State Board of Elections has requested for the state to enact provisions to ensure a fair and safe election this fall for all NC voters.
Recently, the state League of Women Voters and Democracy North Carolina have filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming the state had failed to address critical concerns about voter safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proposed House bill still does not address the issues such as prepaid postage for by-mail absentee ballots and contactless drop boxes where ballots could be dropped off.
Earlier in the month, a group of NC voters filed a lawsuit in state courts challenging current restrictions on voting-by-mail. The lawsuit challenges the state’s ballot postage requirements, witness requirements, the deadline by which election officials must receive mailed ballots, and the rules and procedures around signature matching.
Bottom Line: As more and more states ease restrictions on voting-by mail ahead of the November election, North Carolina needs to consider the health and safety of voters across the state.
Months before voting begins, state lawmakers need to guarantee that all voters will have the opportunity to cast safe and secure ballots.