The Bipartisan Elections Act of 2020 or HB1169 — an N.C. House Republicans and Democrats jointly sponsored a voting safety bill — passed unanimously last month in an effort to ensure accessible voting in November, but the bill remains to have a few shortfalls.
The House Bill 1169, 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. The bill also gives local elections boards more flexibility in assigning poll workers and 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.
Yet, there remains major problems within the legislation.
Included in the bill is a provision to add a new type of photo ID requirement in an effort to undermine the state and federal court cases that have stopped the implementation of the ID requirement. This is a voter suppression attempt to keep Black and Brown voters from exercising their constitutional right.
In addition, H1169 falls short in creating the proper and responsible changes to ensure a safe, fair, and free election. Extending voter registration opportunities, and more options for how and where you can cast your ballot will help every North Carolinian feel safe in exercising their right to vote.
Yet, Republicans are using the pandemic as cover for re-injecting race-based voter suppression and adopting provisions that give them an upper hand. This is nothing new as Republicans have repeatedly used photo ID, illegal racial gerrymandering and other tactics to rig the system in their favor for years.
Even in the face of a pandemic, Republicans still cling to deceptive and oppressive strategies in an effort to undermine voters. Their actions are unconscionable and it must be challenged.
Rather than using the public health crisis to play politics, lawmakers need to ensure that North Carolina will hold an election that will be safe and fair for everyone.
And as the Senate prepares to hear House Bill 1169, lawmakers need to also guarantee protections for poll workers, secure funding for voting precinct locations — especially in communities of color, extend and expand voter registration, along with pre-paid postage for all absentee ballots.
Failing to safeguard in-person voting puts vulnerable communities at greater risk, including citizens of color, citizens who are housing insecure, and citizens with disabilities.
No one should ever have to make the choice to risk their health or the safety of their family to cast their ballot. And as our country continues to grapple with the impact of COVID-19, it is now more important than ever that voters have fair and safe access to registering and voting.
We must demand that lawmakers remove photo voter ID and all non-COVID-19 related provisions from H1169 that would prevent equal voting access for everyone in this historic election.
And as North Carolinians of every race and creed raise their voices in the streets for racial equity and justice, we and our elected leaders must also rise to the occasion. We must raise our collective voice and say no more racist attempts to silence our voices.