The 2020 election exposed problems with how elections are conducted in North Carolina.  

My colleague Jim Stirling and I cataloged many of those problems in a report published by the John Locke Foundation last year. They include regular mail ballots accepted after election day, private funds sent to election officials, and election officials accepting ballots from same-day registrants even though those officials could not confirm that they lived where they claimed to live. 

The General Assembly responded to the problems of the 2020 election by passing several election reforms, all of which Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed

Legislators have bundled many of those same reforms and others into Senate Bill 747, “An Act to Make Various Changes Regarding Elections Law.” 

Cooper blasted the bill, claiming it to be based on the “Big Lie of election fraud” and that legislators want to “block voters” from voting. As expected, he vetoed the bill on Aug. 24.  

Despite Cooper’s bluster, what would the bill do? Some of the important reforms in the bill include: 

  • Banning so-called “Zuck bucks,” private money sent to election boards. The Center for Tech and Civic Life, funded by Mark Zuckerberg and led by Democratic Party operatives, funneled millions of dollars to election administration efforts in about a third of North Carolina’s counties. Those counties disproportionately supported Democratic candidates. 
  • Making Election Day the deadline for county boards of elections to receive mail ballots. The current deadline is three days after Election Day. That creates confusion for election officials about postmarks and when a ballot was “in the mail stream.” It also deceives voters into thinking their ballot will always be counted if they put it in the mailbox by Election Day. Despite a court ordering the deadline extended to nine days after Election Day in 2020, 1,084 mail ballots were not counted due to being “returned after deadline.” 
  • Clarifying what election observers can and cannot do at voting places. Current law is maddeningly vague, stating that observers may “make such observation and take such notes as the observer may desire,” as long as they don’t impede the voting process, communicate with voters, or conduct electioneering. The bill provides clearer rules on observer conduct and specifies a procedure for removing observers who violate those rules.  
  • Requiring that county election boards hire officials at early voting sites on a bipartisan basis. That is already required at Election Day polling places. 

Although those and other reforms in the bill are needed to make our elections better run and more secure, Cooper continues to claim without evidence that the legislation is “an all-out assault on the right to vote.” 

We have seen this play before.  

Georgia legislators responded to problems exposed in the 2020 election by passing sweeping election reforms in 2021, the Election Integrity Act of 2021. The left called it “modern-day Jim Crow” and “an assault on our democracy” that would suppress votes. 

Then a funny thing happened. Despite those claims of doom, Georgia’s 2022 election went smoothly, with an unusually high turnout for a midterm election. Faced with those facts, the doomsayers had to retreat to making claims without evidence that votes were somehow still being suppressed or that the effect of the law on voting was “unclear.”  

In response to a lawsuit based on those claims, a federal court upheld almost all of Georgia’s election reforms on Aug. 18. 

We can expect a similar result if the General Assembly overrides Cooper’s veto: much gnashing of teeth over supposed voter suppression followed by largely unsuccessful lawsuits. 

In the meantime, North Carolinians will enjoy better-run and more secure elections.