WRAL, Democrats construct “false” narrative on GOP election bill

Gov. Roy Cooper, D-NC, speaks to reporters outside the White House. Source: Twitter

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  • "I had never met her," Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, said of Cleta Mitchell. "I did not know who she was until after the meeting. They had no influence on the bill whatsoever."
  • 50% of North Carolinians believe our elections will be free and fair.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans filed a bill that they say “will strengthen election laws [and] increase confidence in election administration,” according to a press release from bill sponsors. Much of the policy in the bill had been approved by the legislature in sessions past, but were vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper.

However, after Thursday’s filing the mainstream media and elected Democratic leaders immediately formed a narrative that bill sponsors say does not align with what actually happened in building the proposed election legislation. They say the narrative, launched by WRAL as “news” and perpetuated by N.C. Democrats, is false.

Earlier on Thursday, WRAL published an article reporting that Cleta Mitchell was a key player in drafting Senate Bill 747. Mitchell was an attorney for former President Donald Trump and was involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia.

Narrative building

Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat who is running for governor, said in a statement that “most” of Mitchell’s desired election restrictions are in S.B. 747. Stein shared the WRAL article, and his statement was shared over 400 times.

Will Doran, a WRAL reporter, shared the article he wrote, saying Mitchell “has been working with NC Republicans to rewrite voting laws ahead of 2024.”

Another leftwing account shared the WRAL article, claiming that Mitchell had written “pretty much all of [S.B. 747].” More than 400 people shared the post.

Governor Roy Cooper also chimed in, saying Republicans took “advice from election deniers.” Cooper also shared the WRAL article.

On Monday, Senate minority leader Dan Blue, D-Wake, echoed similar sentiments in a joint Democratic press conference.

“Apparently [Mitchell] is helping Republicans find a few thousand votes here in North Carolina,” Blue said.

Blue had begun the press conference by mentioning Mitchell’s involved in attempting to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results.

House minority leader Robert Reives, D-Chatham, also emphasized Mitchell’s involvement.

“I think as Leader Blue said, using someone like Cleta Mitchell should be frightening on a lot of levels,” Reives said. “You can’t tell me this was the only person you could find. You can’t tell me this was the only person you could consult with. You can’t tell me that you innocently did not know about all of the accusations that have been made.”

“no role in the crafting this legislation”

According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, lawmakers and staff did not know Mitchell would be joining the meeting. Lawmakers had planned to meet with Jim Womack. Womack has been involved with the North Carolina Republican Party for many years and spearheaded election integrity initiatives.

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said that Mitchell “has had no role in the crafting of this legislation,” referring to S.B. 747.

Additionally, S.B. 747 was already written before Mitchell met with lawmakers, and there were no changes made to the bill following the meeting.

“Not a single word of draft legislation produced by [Mitchell’s group] was used in Senate Bill 747,” said Randy Brechbiel, a Berger spokesman. “The legislation is a product of the bill sponsors based on their ideas for strengthening elections integrity and instilling voter confidence in our system.”

Newton, a primary bill sponsor who attended the meeting, said they were simply meeting with them as a courtesy, just as they do with many other stakeholder groups.

“I had never met her,” Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, said of Mitchell. “I did not know who she was until after the meeting. They had no influence on the bill whatsoever.”

In a press release on Thursday, Senate Republicans pointed to multiple bills the legislature passed previously but were vetoed by Governor Cooper.

Contrary to mainstream media headlines, Mitchell said she did not play any role in drafting Senate Bill 747.

“I did not help with drafting legislation in any state, including NC,” Mitchell said in the statement.

Brent Woodcox, a top staffer for Sen. Berger, called media running with the Cleta Mitchell narrative “hacks” in a tweet.

“The reason the hacks in the media are so focused on irrelevant meetings is that there is nothing in this bill that is out of line with how elections are conducted in other states,” said Woodcox. “Unable to debate the content, they shift exclusively to baseless claims of ‘influence.'”

inside senate bill 747

S.B. 747 states that absentee ballots will be counted so long as they are received by 7:30 PM on election night, or until polls are closed. Current law provides that absentee ballots must be postmarked by 5:00 PM on election night.

The bill also bans “Zuck Bucks,” which is a phrase coined in the last few years meaning private money that funds public election administration infrastructure.

“The injection of hundreds of millions of private dollars into the U.S. elections was rightfully scrutinized by many Americans,” said Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, who is a primary bill sponsor and chairs the Senate’s elections committee. “By putting an end to out-of-state billionaires bankrolling the administration of our elections, we will maintain election integrity and steer clear from the very notion of outside influence.”

Additionally, the bill permits public inspection of absentee ballots at weekly county election board meetings.

There is also a provision to speed up the process for removing ineligible voters from the voter rolls.

North Carolinians would also be able to appeal decisions made by the county Board of Elections to the local Superior Court.

In one of the most competitive N.C. Senate races of 2022, the Currituck County Board of Elections voted that Democrat Valerie Jordan is likely not a resident in the district where she was running for state Senate. However, the Democratic-controlled State Board of Elections overruled the decision by a 3-2 vote, and there was no process in place for an appeal.

other key provisions in s.b. 747:

  • Requires local Superior Court clerks to notify state election officials of names of people disqualified from jury duty because they are not citizens.
  • Requires precinct officials to log names of people assisting voters.
  • Extends the time elections records must be retained and preserved to 22 months, matching existing federal requirements.
  • Requires provisional ballots from any prospective voter taking advantage of same-day registration.
  • Requires a new two-factor authentication process for absentee ballots cast by mail.
  • Requires signature verification software to check signatures of voters using absentee ballots.

A recent poll from the John Locke Foundation shows that only 50% of North Carolinians believe our elections will be free and fair, signaling that voter confidence has not improved over the last few years

Senate leadership has not scheduled S.B. 747 for its first committee hearing yet, but will likely go through Judiciary and Redistricting and Elections Committees before going to Senate Rules.