On Wednesday, the North Carolina House Rules Committee voted in favor of changes to Senate Bill 747, laying a framework for major election law changes in the Tar heel state.

Sens. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell; Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus; and Warren Daniel, R-Burke, are lead sponsors of the S747. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 28-19 along partisan lines.

Among other things, S747 does the following:

  • Requires absentee ballots to be accepted by Election Day
  • Increases the rights of poll observers
  • Prohibits election officials from accepting private money to administer elections
  • Launches a pilot program for some counties to use signature verification software for absentee ballots
  • Establishes a process for periodic removal of ineligible voters, including the deceased, convicted felons, and those who have moved
  • Amends same-day registration to remove ballots if the registration is not confirmed by a county election board’s verification mailing
  • Requires that unaffiliated voters are eligible to vote in a political party’s primary, removing the ability of parties to opt out of doing so
  • Makes early voting a unique method rather than a subset of absentee voting, bringing North Carolina in line with how other states handle the process
  • Mandates that election officials keep a log of the names and addresses of any adult who enters a voting place, except for voters, election officials, observers, and runners

Bill writers added a severability clause in the PCS, meaning that if one part of the bill is struck down in a lawsuit, the rest of the bill remains in effect.

Democratic legislative leaders in both chambers have spoken out against the bill, with House Minority Leader Robert Reives, D-Chatham; and Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, D-Wake, issuing the following statement:

“This legislation is yet another example of Republican leadership making it harder for North Carolinians to vote. It opens the door for voter intimidation at polling places, completely undermines same-day registration during early voting and makes it easier to toss out valid ballots. These changes do not improve the integrity of our elections — if anything, they erode the trust of voters.”

Although Democrats largely oppose the bill, some are not against many of the changes.

“I really do appreciate many of these changes,” Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, said in Tuesday’s House Committee on Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform.

Harrison went on to propose a number of amendments she intended to further clarify. However, bill sponsors rejected the amendments as redundant.

Rep. Allen Buansi, D-Orange, proposed five additional amendments, several of which bill sponsors also rejected as repetitive.

Because of the large number of proposed amendments, public comment was limited to 30 seconds per speaker.

Dr. Andy Jackson, director of the John Locke Foundation’s Center for Election Integrity, spoke to House members in favor of the bill.

In a statement to Carolina Journal, Jackson called the proposal “a solid bill.” 

“The original bill already took several important steps toward making our elections more secure,” said Jackson. “The amended version takes even more steps. In addition, the recodifying in the bill will make the law more clear for election officials, observers, and the public. The PCS is a big improvement on an already good bill.”