Source: Editorial Board
North Carolina Republicans are quickly advancing two proposals that would drastically change the face of our elections.
One proposal would establish additional barriers to early voting such as new restrictions on same-day registration and mail-in voting. The measure also seeks to make it easier for people to accuse others of committing voter fraud.
The proposed restrictions on mail-in voting would eliminate the three-day grace period for ballots to still be counted as long as they are postmarked on or before Election Day. This change could lead to votes being completely thrown out due to something as simple as a delay with the local postal service.
During the last presidential election year, nearly 12,000 ballots came in during the three-day grace period. For context, a number of state elections in North Carolina have been won or lost by a smaller margin. In 2020, the race for Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court was decided by 400 votes. In 2016, the governor’s race was decided by a little over 10,000 votes.
The second proposal would fundamentally change the composition and function of the State Board of Elections as well as the boards of elections in all 100 counties. The proposal would force all county boards of elections and the state board to have an even number of Democratic and Republican members.
You might ask– under this bill, what happens if there is a tie among board members? The answer- the Republican-controlled legislature will get to decide.
An even split of Democrats and Republicans will inevitably lead to gridlock on a number of occasions. And if that is the case, the legislature could have the power to make a number of crucial decisions such as: who to hire as North Carolina’s elections administrator and deciding the outcome of ethics investigations conducted by the State Board.
Republicans claim this action is in the name of being “fair,” but in reality, this change would only give them more power to control our elections.
Advocates have also raised concerns about the chilling impact this measure could have on the county level. For example, county boards of elections are tasked with voting on locations and hours for the early voting period.
In the event of a split vote on early voting locations for a given county, state law dictates that the county would default to having a single site for early voting. The gridlock created by this bill could effectively lead to counties across the state being forced to conduct early voting from a single location which could drastically impact voter turnout, particularly in larger counties and urban areas.
Republicans claim both measures are needed to protect election integrity, but advocates are questioning their true motivation. Cassandra Stokes of the North Carolina Black Alliance said, “What is election integrity after Black and brown voters cast a record number of votes in 2020 in North Carolina, and politicians are now making it more difficult to cast ballots?”
Both measures have been advanced in committee and are expected to be voted on by the full North Carolina Senate before moving to the House.