On Friday, Governor Roy Cooper signed into law legislation that will provide money to help run North Carolina elections safely and securely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill also expands vote-by-mail measures, making it easier to cast mail-in absentee ballots this fall.
The bill was created in bipartisan effort that will allocate over $27 million toward equipment, security upgrades, as well as personal protective equipment at in-person voting sites.
The bill also reduces the number of witnesses needed for an absentee ballot from two to one and makes it easier to obtain an absentee ballot request form. Local elections boards will now have more flexibility in assigning poll workers. The bill also provides matching state funds for federal grants to expand early voting, buy PPE, rent bigger voting sites, incentive pay for poll workers, process more absentee ballots, etc.
These measures are designed to prepare for an increase in absentee ballots from voters that are at higher risk of developing complications from the coronavirus.
Yet, the legislation falls short on certain measures that would have ensured the safety of voters who may be set with more hurdles due to the public health crisis.
Measures such as changes to voter registration rules and flexibility for counties in how they administer early voting remain critical for Black, Brown and other vulnerable communities across the state.
A deceitful photo voter ID provision included in the bill, may also confuse voters who wish to cast their ballots. The last-minute addition to the bill, attempts to revive a racially discriminatory voter ID law that has been blocked by state and federal courts, yet lawmakers continue to try to impose voter suppression tactics.
Despite the legislation being far from perfect, North Carolina now has much-needed reforms that expands options for voters amid the pandemic.
With November coming up in five months, every voter must have adequate resources and opportunities to exercise their constitutional right. No one should have to choose between staying healthy and voting.
We must call upon our lawmakers to make the right decisions and enact measures focused on guaranteeing safe voting and easing challenges imposed by the pandemic.
Nothing more, nothing less.