Source: Editorial Board
Democrats in the state House and Senate have introduced a pair of bills titled “Freedom to Vote.” The legislation aims to protect free and fair elections in North Carolina by providing funding for our State Board of Elections, reducing voter intimidation, making voting more accessible, and ending gerrymandering.
Bill sponsor Sen. Kandie Smith said, “For democracy to work for all of us, it must include all of us. That’s why our caucuses are coming together to fight dangerous anti-voter legislation and make sure that our voices can be heard and that our freedoms are protected.”
The measure would fully fund the NC Board of Elections budget requests for 2023 to ensure the board has the resources it needs to administer elections statewide. Previous cuts to the board’s budget have resulted in the loss of critical personnel, forcing the board to do more with less.
The measure would also define and prohibit harassment or intimidation of voters as well as election administrators and poll workers. During the 2022 election cycle, the State Board of Education received multiple reports of intimidation and/or interference at the polls. These incidents led to the resignation of a number of county elections officials. The proposal would increase criminal penalties for these crimes and broaden the definition of what qualifies as intimidation.
The measure would make it a crime to falsely tell someone that they are not eligible to vote or challenge the eligibility of large numbers of voters without proof.
Greg Flynn, a member of the Wake County Board of Election, said it’s the General Assembly’s responsibility to address the issue of voter intimidation and harassment in North Carolina.
Flynn said, “The disinformation spreading in our communities about elections has created an atmosphere of confusion and intimidation at the polls. We’ve had judges followed from polling locations and back to their offices by self-appointed poll observers who are intent on intimidating and harassing election workers, and we know that many voters are avoiding voting on election day, instead opting for participating in early voting, because they’re worried about facing harassment. And it’s the General Assembly’s responsibility to address these issues.”
The measure also seeks to increase voter participation by establishing a process for registering to vote online, extending weekend voting hours, and preventing boards of elections from removing voters from the rolls without notice.
The measure would also establish a timeline for the General Assembly to enact a non-partisan redistricting process following the return of the 2030 census.
Bill sponsor Rep. Allen Buansi said “Elections should reflect the will of the people. […] Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate are introducing legislation that would protect your freedom to vote and have your voice heard.”