North Carolina Senate Republicans proposed on Thursday an omnibus election measure that contains provisions vetoed successfully in past years by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper as well as other administrative changes that supporters argue will boost trust in election outcomes.
The legislation, which could receive a committee hearing next week, has been worked on for weeks, with input received from advocacy groups and former election officials among others, a bill sponsor said.
Among the vetoed items considered again in the combined bill are those that would stop accepting certain absentee ballots received after Election Day, create a process to keep more non-U.S. citizens off voter rolls and prohibit private funds from being used to run elections.
“Our hope is that this will restore some confidence in many citizens in their voting process,” state Sen. Ralph Hise, of Mitchell County, told reporters earlier Thursday.
Critics have called the duplicate measures from previous years a method by Republicans to discourage voting in a closely divided state.
“Republican lawmakers want to safeguard their power, not our votes,” Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, of Wake County, and House Minority Leader Robert Reives, of Chatham County, said in a prepared statement.
The measure could withstand political opposition from Cooper this year now that Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers for the first time since 2018.
One previously vetoed provision would remove the state’s three-day grace period after an election for an absentee by-mail ballot to arrive for it to be counted. Instead, all such ballots would have to be submitted at a county board of elections office, whether by mail or in person, before 7:30 p.m. on the day of the election, when polls close statewide.
“Making Election Day the official deadline removes confusion and skepticism from the minds of voters,” said another bill sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Paul Newton, of Cabarrus County, in a statement.
Republicans also would try again to bar election boards and officials in counties from accepting private money to administer elections. Millions of dollars from outside groups went to North Carolina to run the 2020 elections, particularly to address COVID-19-related challenges.
Republicans argue the outside donations to government agencies create the impression of undue influence.
And another vetoed provision would tell North Carolina courts to send information to election officials about potential jurors being disqualified because they aren’t U.S. citizens. Ultimately they would be removed from voter rolls. Cooper said in his 2019 veto message that it would increase the risk that legitimate citizens would be denied the right to vote due to bad jury-excusal information.
The measure also contains a host of other provisions, including a requirement that anyone who registers to vote at an early in-person voting site must cast a provisional ballot, which can be more easily challenged after an election.
The vote would be tabulated only if the voter’s address is verified through the current mail process or if the person provides a qualifying identification document by the day of the election.
The measure also would allow the public to inspect absentee ballots at meetings of county elections boards in the weeks before an election where members decide whether ballots received should be counted.
The bill comes as the State Board of Elections is preparing to carry out in time for this fall’s municipal elections a photo voter identification law that was upheld by the state Supreme Court in April.
Hise said Thursday that he did meet with Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who advised former President Donald Trump in his fight to overturn the 2020 election, as legislators considered the bill’s contents.
Hise said Mitchell, who lives in North Carolina, expressed concerns about election administration in the state but diminished her influence: “We listened and we felt like we had addressed what we needed to address in the bill.”