Local & State
|Voter activists: NC witness requirement a bar to mail-in ballots|
|Critics slam revision in state law|
|Published Wednesday, July 15, 2020 3:20 pm|
|Voting rights advocates contend North Carolina law doesn't go far enough to make absentee balloting accessible to more residents due to a rule that requires a witness for a ballot is burdensome.|
RALEIGH – Civil rights groups says a new election-reform law doesn’t go far enough to ensure absentee voting is accessible.
In June, Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill that boosts funding to counties to help streamline the process, including a requirement that a website be created for online absentee ballot requests by Sept. 1.
Jerusalem Demsas, national press secretary with the Democratic Governors Association, said the law takes two main actions; the first strips away a web of regulations surrounding vote-by-mail.
“And the second is allocating funding to state and county boards of elections to make it easier for them to put in practice their own safeguards so that it’s easier to vote,” Demsas said.
Traditionally, North Carolina has required absentee voters to have two witnesses sign their ballot envelope. The new bill says just one witness will suffice for 2020.
However, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against this requirement, arguing that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the one-witness mandate places an unnecessary burden on voters. Residents can vote in-person on Nov. 3 if they choose. But Demsas noted the state is working to improve security and upgrade equipment amid expectations that the demand for absentee ballots could be historically high.
The legislation calls for creation of a bar code or other unique identifier to allow both county boards of elections and voters to track the status of mailed-in ballots.
“There are some estimates that this year, 20% or even more of North Carolinians will be trying to vote absentee; which is much higher than in previous years,” she said. It’s usually, I think, in the single digits. So, we’re seeing a massive uptick.”
The law also requires the Department of Health and Human Services and the State Board of Elections to develop guidelines to safely allow election workers to assist registered voters within hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other congregate living situations.
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