Republican leaders in the General Assembly are running a number of bills meant to shore up election integrity in North Carolina after a series of similar measures fell prey to Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto pin last session.

Supporters say the bills are needed to improve election integrity following the 2020 election, which resulted in numerous accusations of fraud.

Senate Bill 88, Election Day Integrity Act, would revise the deadline for absentee ballots to be received by local boards of elections from three days after the election to the close of polls on Election Day itself. This change would return N.C. law to where it stood in 2009 and match 32 other states with the same deadline of Election Day.

An identical bill passed along party lines in 2021 and was vetoed by Cooper, who argued in his veto message that the measure “virtually guarantees that some [votes] will go uncounted.” This session, Republicans have a veto-proof majority in the Senate and a working super majority in the House, making veto-override votes more achievable.

“Across the country and in North Carolina voters have raised concerns about how elections are conducted,” said Senate majority leader Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, in an emailed statement to Carolina Journal. “Trust and confidence in our elections is of the utmost importance. Requiring absentee ballots to be received on or before Election Day is a commonsense step to increase trust in our elections. I believe that requirement, coupled with prohibiting outside money from funding elections, will help alleviate concerns of election fraud.”

Another measure, Senate Bill 89, Prohibit Private Money in Elections Admin, would bar county boards of elections from accepting private donations to administer election services. This move would outlaw scenarios like the one that unfolded in 2020 involving donated funds from the Center for Tech and Civic Life, funded by Facebook founder Marc Zuckerberg and his wife.

The CTCL donated so-called “Zuck bucks” to county boards of elections in 33 N.C. counties that ultimately ended up skewing Democratic in voting, compared to the 67 counties that received no money.

Cooper vetoed an identical bill last session, claiming that in 2020 “grants from nonpartisan nonprofits were needed for necessities such as masks, single-use pens and other protective equipment so voters stayed safe during the pandemic.”

“Both of those bills would help improve North Carolina elections,” said Dr. Andy Jackson, director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity at the John Locke Foundation. “Accepting civilian absentee ballots three days after election day has created confusion over when some ballots were mailed. Also, private funding has no place in election administration, whether the money comes from progressive or conservative groups. 

“Passing election reform bills in the House may be difficult. Similar reform bills passed on party-line votes before being successfully vetoed by Gov. Cooper,” Jackson added. “The parties see election reform as a zero-some game where any change will help one party and hurt the other. So getting that 72nd vote may be a challenge.”