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NC Republicans Pass Voter Suppression Bill That Eliminates Mail-In Ballot Grace Period

Source: CBS 17

Legislation that Democratic state Sen. Natasha Marcus called “the jumbo jet of a voter suppression bill” has passed the legislature and now awaits Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature or veto stamp.

Senate Bill 747 passed the House and the Senate last week.

Republicans have a supermajority and will be able to override the governor’s veto. If and when that happens, there will be multiple new laws on the books that will impact how we vote in North Carolina.

The bill establishes the rights of election observers at polling sites (creating the potential for legalized voter intimidation), eliminates the three-day grace period for mail-in ballots that Republicans themselves had previously supported, attempts to impose discriminatory and unreliable signature matching for mail-in ballots and opens the door for mass challenges to ballots by election fraud conspiracy theorists, among other provisions. 

According to CBS 17, Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said that there’s no reason why ballots should be counted after Election Day.

“Folks have plenty of notice and should have knowledge that if they’re going to vote absentee, they need to make sure that they get their ballots in so that they will be received by the board of elections on time,” he said.

The elimination of the mail-in ballot grace period is something that Republicans have been trying to accomplish since the 2020 election when Donald Trump made claims that mail-in ballots were illegitimate because a huge number of people voted via that method. The reason why so many voted absentee is because the COVID-19 pandemic was raging across the country in the lead-up to the election.

That was also the year that state election officials settled a lawsuit brought by a Democratic attorney that pushed the grace period to nine days.

House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) told reporters that Election Day is “when folks are supposed to vote,” and asked, “Why are we counting ballots after that date?”

The statements by Berger and Moore are highly hypocritical but unsurprising. CBS 17 points out that both Republicans voted in favor of a bill in 2009 that established the three-day grace period. That bill passed with wide bipartisan support.

Moore’s reasoning for the change of heart?

“There’s more paranoia, I don’t know what the word is, more concern with elections, with ballots, with voting,” he said.

Moore apparently didn’t get the irony of that statement. It’s very obvious that the Republican Party at both the state and national levels are the ones pushing election fraud conspiracies and trying to undermine the integrity of the election process. That’s the entire reason there’s any sort of “paranoia” or “concern with elections.”

Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said the move was unnecessary and urged Cooper to veto the bill. 

“What I would say is, how is there more paranoia when the voters are voting in North Carolina in record numbers?” asked Phillips. “There’s been no systemic, widespread fraud when the state and county boards of elections have done their audits.” 

Data from the North Carolina State Board of Elections shows that in 2020, there were 13,669 mail-in votes from civilians that came in during the nine-day grace period. Of those, 11,635 came in the first three days. Every single one of those 13,669 votes would not have counted if SB 747 had been in effect then.

“They should not be disenfranchised because perhaps the postal service was late,” said Phillips.

In an effort to make the legislation less harmful and restrictive, House Democrats submitted 18 amendments to SB 747. Sixteen of the proposals failed along party line votes. 

Two amendments passed – Amendment 7, which allows volunteers working at polling locations to legally accept food, drinks, pens and face masks, and Amendment 18, which changed the wording in the legislation for creating a uniform process for filing and hearing challenges of the appointment of an observer.

Cooper vetoed SB 747 shortly after it arrived on his desk. He ripped Republicans in a statement explaining his decision.

“Right now, legislative Republicans in North Carolina are pushing an all-out assault on the right to vote, using the advice of Trump’s hand-picked election denier Cleta Mitchell who was on the call trying to help him overturn the election in Georgia.”

Republicans will override the governor’s veto, but a date for the override vote has not been announced.

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