One of the state’s most influential liberal activist groups wants to permanently install changes to voting rules implemented solely for the pandemic.

On a conference call with volunteers around the state, leaders of Democracy North Carolina said one of their top priorities of the year is keeping laws intended to be temporary and only for the 2020 election.

These include waiving some witness requirements on absentee-by-mail ballots.

“We want to try to preserve the wins that we got last year,” said Tomas Lopez, executive director of Democracy North Carolina.

The organization is formally nonpartisan but closely aligned with liberal policies.

The General Assembly passed a law last summer tweaking voting laws for the 2020 election as the state dealt with the coronavirus. This included reducing the witness signature requirement from two to one and allowing people to request ballots online or by email.

Later, after a settlement between a Democrat advocacy group and the administration of Gov. Roy Cooper, the State Board of Elections allowed votes to be counted if received up to nine days after Election Day. They also allowed counties to set up anonymous, unstaffed ballot drop boxes and created a lengthy process for people to “cure” improperly filled out absentee-by-mail ballots.

Nearly 20% of the 5.5 million votes in North Carolina came by mail in the 2020 election, up from an average of around 5%.

Lopez told volunteers that, after the rule changes, the percentage of absentee-by-mail ballots rejected fell from 14% in the March 2020 primary to just 2% in the general election.

Democracy North Carolina also listed obstructing voter ID laws, creating automatic voter registration, watchdogging the redistricting process, and making Election Day a federal holiday among its priorities. 

Andrew Dunn is a freelance writer for Carolina Journal.