The Progressive Pulse: NC Democrats push for common sense voting reforms

With more than 360 bills introduced in 47 states across the country, many of which mirror the worst of Georgia’s Senate Bill 202, our right to vote hangs in the balance. In North Carolina, the Republican-backed Senate Bills 326 and 377 are their own versions of Georgia’s Jim Crow-era voter suppression laws. 

Through House Bill 446, state Democrats are pushing back against the direct assault on North Carolinians’ freedom to vote with new pro-voter bills. HB 446, also called the “Safeguarding Voting Rights”, aims to expand voter registration, making it easier for more eligible North Carolina voters to cast their ballots, while increasing voter turnout.

From The Progressive Pulse:

HB 446 so far has 32 sponsors, all Democrats – amounting to a majority of the party’s 51 House members (vs. 69 Republicans). Its primary sponsors are Reps. Marcia Morey of Durham, Allison Dahle of Raleigh, Kandie Smith of Greenville and Amos Quick III of Greensboro. Among the bill’s notable features, it would let absentee voters submit their ballots with the signature of only one witness rather than two.

The one-witness rule was approved by the legislature as a stop-gap response to the risks posed by in-person contact during the pandemic, but it now has lapsed. There’s ample reason to extend it, even if the COVID-19 threat continues to fade. It makes absentee voting more convenient with no evidence that it facilitates fraud. A huge increase in the number of absentee voters was a significant driver of 2020’s high turnout, and no doubt many of those voters would choose that method again if didn’t pose undue hassles.

Last year saw improved methods for applying for an absentee ballot, including online. H.B. 446 would go farther. It would require the State Board of Elections, at least 90 days before an election, to “collaborate with county boards of elections to ensure every registered voter in the State receives by mail a request form for an absentee ballot.” Postage to return the form would be prepaid.

If passed, HB 446 would also make Election Day a holiday, expand online voter registration options, and register eligible North Carolinians to vote automatically when they interact with a government agency like the DMV, unless they opt out.

House Bill 437, called the “Fair Maps Act” is another piece of pro-voter legislation, aimed at ending gerrymandering by permanently taking redistricting power out of the hands of legislators and entrusting it with an independent commission comprised of North Carolinians in order to draw the state’s voting districts free from political influence.

Through SB 326 and 377, Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly are contributing to the coordinated national effort to keep our communities, particularly people of color, from exercising their constitutional right to vote. As Stacey Abrams described similar efforts in Georgia, “It is a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie.”

That’s why we need bills like HB 446 and HB 437 in order to stop Republicans from deliberately putting up barriers to silence our voices. 

Bottom Line: For a century, Jim Crow laws were used in North Carolina along with other states in the south in an effort to suppress poor and Black voters. And today, new laws being proposed by the GOP, continue the racist tradition of shutting people out of our democracy. 

Our democracy works best when everyone can cast their ballots freely and safely, and when one of our communities is suppressed, we are all impacted. We must come together to demand the passage of pro-voter bills to ensure that every community is heard and our elections reflect the will of the people.

Alanna Joyner

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