The 2020 general election is notable in many ways. Turnout was a record 75% in North Carolina. A little more than 1 million people voted by mail-in ballots. But it could be the election that prompts state lawmakers to change who’s in charge of administering future elections. As co-chair of the N.C. Senate Elections Committee, Sen. Paul Newton, intends to propose an oversight board for the State Board of Elections. “I think we’re going to be looking at an oversight board that examines the Board of Elections to make sure they’re following the law,” said Newton, a Republican who represents parts of Cabarrus and Union counties. He said the State Board of Elections sidestepped the legislature in August when it signed off on a settlement that gave a six-day extension to how long mail-in ballots would be accepted. Instead of a Nov. 6 deadline, the board agreed ballots could be accepted until Nov. 12 as long as they were postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3. “An elections board does not have the power to change state law. It shouldn’t,” Newton said. “Do we pass a law that says you need to follow the law? Well, in a sense, that’s what we’re left with.” The General Assembly approved the Nov. 6 date in June as part of legislation that made several accommodations to deal with the pandemic, including making it easier to vote with mail-in ballots. The legislation was lauded as an example of compromise between Democrats and Republicans.
How are North Carolina counties going to recount millions of ballots? | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press
North Carolina is conducting a statewide recount, spurred by one of the closest elections the state has ever seen. The Republican candidate for chief justice of the state Supreme Court, current Associate Justice Paul Newby, leads Democratic incumbent Cheri Beasley by 406 votes, or seven-thousands of a percent. In the span of a few days, every county in North Carolina will recount each of the more than 5.5 million ballots cast in this election, which saw record-setting turnout. While voters cast those ballots over the span of weeks, counties have until Nov. 25 to finish the second count. “It’s a very methodical process that needs to be done in a very condensed time frame,” said Robert Inman, Haywood County’s elections director. Inman, like a fifth of North Carolina’s election directors, is doing his first recount with paper ballots. Until the end of 2019, 21 counties were using touchscreen voting machines that stored votes on memory cards. During the 2016 recounts, these counties simply had to rerun those memory cards through the computer, which yielded the same results.
North Carolina chief justice race still tight as counties finish count | Gary D. Robertson/Associated Press
Candidates in North Carolina’s still-undecided races for Supreme Court chief justice and attorney general awaited final official results from just a few remaining locales. Two counties on Monday already adjusted previous tallies due to administrative errors. Current Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Paul Newby remained in an extremely close election. A statewide recount in that race was likely, as they were separated by only hundreds of votes after nearly 5.4 million had been counted. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper elevated Beasley, an associate justice, to chief justice in early 2019. Newby is the senior associate justice, joining the court in 2005. As of Monday evening, state results showed Newby 285 votes ahead. Beasley narrowly led over the weekend, after boards in about 90 of the state’s 100 counties completed their canvass of results on Friday. The lead flipped early Monday when the Washington County election board amended the results of its mail-in absentee balloting. Officials there mistakenly had created two records for each mail-in vote, according to the State Board of Elections. The only other county with significant vote totals yet to be counted was Robeson County, whose board was still evaluating late Monday hundreds of provisional ballots cast on Election Day and mail-in ballots received afterward, according to Pat Gannon, a state board spokesperson. The results of about 1,950 ballots cast at an early in-person voting site in Pembroke but inadvertently not uploaded on election night were added to totals early Monday evening.
With good reason, counties can extend the time it takes them to finalize their election results. Seven counties met Monday, and two more will meet Tuesday to do just that. Two counties met to fix significant problems. Robeson County had previously failed to upload the votes from an early voting site, according to a press release by the N.C. State Board of Elections. Robeson County also needs to process 700 provisional ballots and 30 by-mail ballots. This will be the last large batch of ballots that could affect the outcome in the chief justice for North Carolina race. It is the closest statewide race and the only one left in question. At the moment, Republican candidate Paul Newby leads Democratic candidate Cheri Beasley by 231 votes. If Robeson is in line with the rest of the state, only about half of the provisional ballots will be approved, meaning Beasley would have to win about two-thirds of those votes to catch up. The county is expected to finalize its results Monday night. An error in Washington County significantly hurt Beasley, who had held a slight lead. Washington County is using an older voting system, called Unity from the election vendor Elections Systems and Software, which the county has had in place since 2006. The county had an unknown error with the Unity system in which the by-mail votes were counted twice, according to the county’s elections director, Dora Bell.
North Carolina election recount possible in AG, chief justice races | Danielle Battaglia/Raleigh News & Observer
North Carolina could be headed toward recounts in two key races where candidates held narrow margins over their opponents. Since Nov. 3, the races between Cheri Beasley and Paul Newby for Supreme Court chief justice and Josh Stein and Jim O’Neill for attorney general have been too close to declare a winner. State law allows a candidate to request a recount in statewide races if they are trailing their opponent by less than 0.5% or 10,000 votes, whichever is less. The candidate must request the recount by Nov. 17, the second business day after the counties certify their election results, which was mostly taking place Friday. Beasley was leading her challenger by just 35 votes, well within those margins, as of 9 a.m. Sunday. But Stein led O’Neill by around 14,000 votes, making a recount look increasingly unlikely. Five counties still had not reported final vote totals.
North Carolina doesn’t verify voter signatures on mail-in ballots. Is that a problem? | Helen Mamo/Charlotte Observer
As local boards of elections meet this week to review the final set of mail-in ballots, they’ll look to make sure that the voter’s name and signature are on the front of each envelope. But they won’t look to see if that signature matches one on file somewhere, because voter signature matching is not required in North Carolina. Signature matching is a common practice, required in 30 states, to help protect the legitimacy of absentee mail-in ballots. But it’s not mandated in everywhere, including in key battleground states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Karen Bell, the executive director of the N.C. State Board of Elections, explained North Carolina’s policy in a memo in August. “County boards shall accept the voter’s signature on the container-return envelope if it appears to be made by the voter, meaning the signature on the envelope appears to be the name of the voter and not some other person,” Bell wrote.
North Carolina: Absentee ballots continue to narrow margins in uncalled elections | Danielle Battaglia/Raleigh News & Observer
North Carolina voters are waiting for six statewideraces to be called as elections officials meet to poreover absentee ballots. Boards of elections in all 100 counties will collect ballots with a Nov. 3 postmark through 5 p.m. Thursday. Then the boards will meet to finalize North Carolina’s election results. There are 27,500 absentee ballots that have been accepted by county boards after Election Day and 23,091 provisional ballots that haven’t been disqualified whichcould ultimately be counted toward the results, the state Board of Elections said in a written statement Tuesday afternoon. As boards continue to count the absentee ballots, the margins have narrowed between candidates in many of the uncalled races. As of Tuesday there were about 93,000 outstanding absentee ballots. Many of those ballots won’t be returned, and some might not be counted. Election Day was Nov. 3, but the margins between some candidates were too close for a winner to be declared.
North Carolina continues counting mail-in votes as some races hang in the balance | Brian Gordon/USA Today
North Carolina election officials continue to count mail-in votes as the state begins its final week of tabulating the 2020 Election. According to the N.C. State Board of Elections, seven county boards, including Buncombe, on Nov. 9 were scheduled to consider and potentially approve at least 3,200 mail-in ballots. These are ballots county boards received after Election Day but were postmarked by Nov. 3. North Carolina will continue accepting properly postmarked mail-in ballots until Nov. 12. On Nov. 6, 10 county boards approved 4,750 mail-in ballots. These votes favored Democratic candidates, with around 65% supporting President-elect Joe Biden to 35% supporting President Donald Trump. These votes also helped Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham narrow the gap with incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, though Cunningham still trails by more than 95,700 votes. Democrats were much more likely to vote by mail this election, both across the state and the country, as different campaigns emphasized and deterred voting by mail.
North Carolina: With the nation’s focus elsewhere, North Carolina is still collecting, counting and too close to call. | Michael Gold/The New York Times
Election officials in North Carolina, where both the presidential race and one of the most critical Senate contests in the country have remained too close to call, said on Friday that about 31,000 eligible mail ballots had arrived since Election Day. Just 4,300 ballots were going to be considered by county election officials on Friday, the state’s board of elections said in a statement, but most will have to wait until next week. The attention now is primarily on Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada, with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. leading in all three. But leading up to Election Day, a victory in North Carolina was seen as crucial to President Trump’s re-election hopes. With most of the votes tabulated in the state, he is currently ahead by around 76,000 votes, or 1.4 percentage points. In the Senate race, Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican, is up by more than 96,000 over his Democratic challenger, Cal Cunningham. It is not clear exactly how many ballots remain outstanding in North Carolina because the state accepts mail ballots until Nov. 12, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. The state’s board of elections said that so far, 99,000 voters who had requested a mail ballot had not yet returned one or cast a vote during the state’s early voting period. Some of those voters may have cast a ballot in-person on Election Day, and others may not have voted.
Neither the presidential nor U.S. Senate race in North Carolina has been called by major news outlets, which are generally reporting that 5% of the votes are still left to be counted. But state news outlets are reporting a much smaller number, closer to 2%. The difference has quite a few people scratching their heads. Here’s what we know, what we will find out soon and what we’ll have to be patient for. No one has called the big statewide races because their margins are too close. Additional races that aren’t at the top of the ballot are even closer, including N.C. attorney general and N.C. chief justice of the Supreme Court, as well as several legislative races and many local races. For even those big statewide races, the number of remaining absentee-by-mail and provisional ballots is greater than the total lead that President Donald Trump has over former Vice President Joe Biden or that U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis has over Cal Cunningham. But in order for either of those Democratic candidates to win, an improbable number of by-mail ballots would need to arrive in county offices and an unusual number of provisional ballots would need to be counted.
North Carolina: How many ballots are left to count and other burning questions answered | Adam Wagner/Raleigh News & Observer
A day after polls closed across the country, North Carolina is waiting for the results of many tight races, including the state’s closely watched presidential race. North Carolina’s 15 electoral college votes hung in the balance Wednesday. President Donald Trump, a Republican, led by nearly 77,000 votes, but 116,200 ballots that people had requested had not yet been returned. Those absentee ballots could ultimately decide not only North Carolina’s presidential vote, but also whether incumbent Democrats hold onto the state Attorney General’s Office or the chief justice seat on the N.C. Supreme Court. Here are answers to some of the questions readers have been asking The News & Observer about those mail-in ballots and what comes next.
North Carolina could see deluge of postelection litigation, challenges and protests | Jordan Wilkie/Carolina Public Press
In an election year that has seen more lawsuits than any election ever before, in which President Donald Trump has broadcast plans to heavily litigate the results, and a month of legal fights in North Carolina over changing election rules, a spokesperson for Republican state Senate leader Phil Berger’s office said nobody wants protracted postelection litigation. “That’s never good,” Pat Ryan, Berger’s spokesperson, said. That is, however, what is expected. Tomas Lopez, who runs the voter rights group Democracy NC, expects to see voter challenges and election protests on Election Day and before Nov. 13, when counties are scheduled to make their vote counts official. “I think that if there’s a litigation option that’s out there on all sides of this, there’s a good chance that it will be invoked,” Lopez said.The first rush of election litigation has passed, but it in many ways simply set the field for postelection legal fights. While lawsuits can no longer much affect how voters cast their ballots, the coming fight will be over which ballots are counted. Lopez’s group wants every lawful vote to be counted, he said. But the litigation brought by political parties seeks more to influence the outcome of the election.
North Carolina: Chatham County hit by cyber attack. Systems rendered ‘inoperable’ | Charlie Innis/Raleigh News & Observer
An unidentified “cyber incident” breached Chatham County’s communication systems Wednesday, County Manager Dan LaMontagne said. The attack rendered the government’s network, email and phone lines “inoperable for an undetermined amount of time,” LaMontagne said in an email to The News & Observer. “We are working with law enforcement and support agencies so we can recover from this incident as soon as possible. Our priority is to restore our systems in a secure manner and maintain the provision of critical services,” he said. The incident did not affect the county’s early voting or 911 communications, he said. When asked for details about what happened and how the system was breached, public information officer Kara Dudley said the county is “still evaluating the impact.”
North Carolina: Supreme Court rejects second GOP effort to block mail-ballot extension | John Kruzel/The Hill
The Supreme Court on Thursday denied a Republican bid to block a mail-ballot extension in North Carolina, a day after rejecting a similar GOP effort in the key battleground state. The court’s three most conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito — would have granted the Republican request. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the bench Tuesday, took no part in considering the case. The voting breakdown mirrored that of a similar Wednesday night ruling in which the court rejected an effort by the Trump campaign and North Carolina Republicans to reverse a six-day mail ballot due date extension. Together, the two rulings represent a major blow for President Trump and his GOP allies and means that North Carolina mail ballots that arrive by Nov. 12 and aren’t postmarked after Election Day will be accepted.
North Carolina: Supreme Court allows state to extend deadline for receiving mail-in ballots, a defeat for GOP in key battleground | Robert Barnes/The Washington Post
The Supreme Court said Wednesday that it will not intervene before the election to stop Pennsylvania officials from receiving mail-in ballots up to three days after Election Day, refusing a Republican request that the high court expedite review of the issue.But the larger issue might not be settled. Three conservative justices indicated the votes ultimately might not be counted and signaled they would like to revisit the issue after the election.Pennsylvania proved vital to President Trump’s election four years ago and is once again considered a key battleground.New Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in considering the request, the Supreme Court said, because of the need for a prompt resolution, and because she has not had time to fully review the legal arguments.The vote on the GOP request is not specified in the court’s short order.
North Carolina GOP asks Supreme Court to roll back extra time for accepting mail-in ballots | Pete Williams/NBC
Republicans in the presidential battleground state of North Carolina asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to block lower court rulings that allowed six extra days to accept ballots sent by mail. The Trump campaign, the state and national Republican parties and Republican leaders of the state Legislature said decisions by North Carolina’s Board of Elections, upheld by federal courts, “pose an immediate threat to the integrity of the federal elections process.” The board changed the mail ballot deadline from Nov. 6, which the Legislature set in June, to Nov. 12. A federal district judge refused to block the change, and so did the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
North Carolina Attorney General calls Trump leading source of election misinformation | Benjamin Freed/StateScoop
As state election and law enforcement officials continue their efforts to push back against tides of misinformation and disinformation that can potentially undermine voters’ confidence, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein on Thursday laid much of the blame at the feet of President Donald Trump. Speaking on a conference call with reporters hosted by the nonprofit Voter Protection Project, Stein called out Trump’s suggestions to his supporters that they attempt to vote both by mail and in person, and that they swarm polling places on Election Day to act as “observers.” “There’s been people, namely the president, encouraging people to vote twice, which is illegal in North Carolina,” said Stein, a Democrat who is running for re-election himself. “For a leader to encourage people to commit crimes is a shame.” There is credence to Stein’s assessment of the president. A study this month by Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society named Trump as a leading source of misinformation about voting by mail, for which instances of fraud are exceedingly rare.
North Carolina can accept absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day for more than a week afterward, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to block an extension for accepting the ballots that was announced in late September. The State Board of Elections decided then that absentee ballots could be accepted until Nov. 12 as long as they were mailed by Election Day, lengthening the timeframe from three to nine days. The change was made as part of a legal settlement with voting rights advocates.State and national Republican leaders went to court to fight the deadline extension. But the federal appeals court denied their emergency request to block the change.The court’s majority opinion notes that ballots must still be postmarked by Election Day to be counted. The opinion says that “everyone must submit their ballot by the same date. The extension merely allows more lawfully cast ballots to be counted, in the event there are any delays precipitated by an avalanche of mail-in ballots.”
North Carolina: Blind voters are being disenfranchised, lawsuit says, and coronavirus doesn't help | The News & Observer
Blind and visually impaired voters will face discrimination and difficult choices in the 2020 elections, a new lawsuit claims, unless North Carolina acts quickly to improve options for voting by mail. North Carolina has specialized voting machines for people with disabilities who vote at any polling place around the state. But this year, the coronavirus pandemic is expected to lead to a massive increase in voting by mail. And the only option for that is a paper ballot. Having only a paper ballot for mail-in voting, the new lawsuit says, means that unless they want to risk their health to vote in person, blind voters will be forced to not only tell someone else who they’d like to vote for, but also trust that person to actually fill out their ballot. “Ensuring that absentee voting is made accessible for blind voters is particularly important because citizens with disabilities already face many barriers to full and equal participation in the voting process, in contrast with sighted voters,” the lawsuit says.
The North Carolina NAACP has asked a judge to bar the use of a touch-screen voting machine in several counties due to what it says are heightened risks associated with using them during the coronavirus pandemic. The request made to a Wake County judge Wednesday says the ExpressVote machines create “unique and substantial risks to the lives and health of voters” because they will be touched by many people, The Charlotte Observer quotes the request as saying. The request comes more than three months after the group filed a lawsuit against the State Board of Elections and county election boards seeking to stop the use of the machines. The state attorney general’s office asked a judge to dismiss that lawsuit, the Observer reported.
North Carolina: NAACP asks judge to ban the kind of voting machines used in Mecklenburg County | Jim Morrill/Charlotte Observer
Citing health and security concerns, North Carolina’s NAACP asked a Wake County judge Wednesday to block the use of touch screen voting machines in Mecklenburg and other counties. The move came three months after the group filed suit against the State Board of Elections and several county boards. Earlier this month the state attorney general’s office asked a judge to dismiss the suit. The NAACP argues that new, touch screen voting machines risk exposing voters to COVID-19. It also said the ExpressVote machines are “insecure, unreliable, and unverifiable” and threaten “the integrity of North Carolina’s elections.” Wednesday’s request for an injunction said the machines create “unique and substantial risks to the lives and health of voters” because each screen will be touched frequently. The two dozen or so counties using the machines, it said, “are forcing voters to choose between their right to vote, their health and potentially their lives.”
North Carolina: The State just changed election rules to expand early voting. Why GOP leaders say it’s unfair | Will Doran/McClatchy
Early voting sites should be easier to find in this fall’s elections, at least in North Carolina’s biggest cities, because of an order issued by the N.C. State Board of Elections on Friday. North Carolina Republicans say the change to statewide voting rules is just a partisan ploy to help Democrats, but state officials say it’s necessary to help protect voters against coronavirus. The order came as Democrats have been criticizing the long lines people have had to wait in to vote — especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic — that made national news earlier this summer in Georgia and Wisconsin. “If we do not take these measures, we risk much longer lines at voting sites and greater possibility of the spread of the coronavirus,” state elections director Karen Brinson Bell said in announcing the changes Friday. “These are not acceptable risks in this important election year when we expect turnout to be high.” The order says that every county in North Carolina must have at least one polling place for every 20,000 residents. That’s probably not going to lead to much change in smaller rural areas — which tend to lean conservative — but could force the creation of many additional polling places in urban, more liberal-leaning areas, said Republican Sen. Ralph Hise of Spruce Pine. The Board of Elections, appointed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper from nominees by the political parties, has a 3-2 Democratic majority. The board appointed Brinson Bell as the director. “It appears that areas with high concentrations of Democrats will have dozens of early voting sites while more Republican areas may have just one,” Hise said in a press release. “How is it fair or equitable for voters of one party to be able to walk down the street to vote early, while voters of another party will need to drive for miles and miles to vote early?”
A bipartisan bill meant to prepare North Carolina for voting in a pandemic got less bipartisan in the state Senate on Wednesday as Democrats pushed back against voter ID language that hadn’t raised concerns in the House. House Bill 1169 makes it easier to request an absentee ballot and to vote that ballot, relaxing a state requirement that voters get two people or a notary public to sign their paperwork if they want to vote by mail. The bill would also create a new online portal voters can use to request ballots, and it has millions of dollars in it to help election officials prepare for the November general election. This bill cleared the North Carolina House last month 116-3, a rare bipartisan vote for a major elections bill. But Tuesday evening, a handful of progressive advocacy groups sounded the alarm, urging people to oppose the bill. The apparent problem lay in language that would add a new type of photo ID to the list of IDs accepted at the polls: Cards issued to people on various public assistance programs.
North Carolina is accustomed to deep partisan divisions over elections law. Republicans and Democrats, along with voting rights advocates, have been battling at the Legislature and in court over issues like redistricting and voter ID for most of the past decade. Indeed, back in January, a federal judge halted the latest photo ID requirement crafted by the GOP-controlled Legislature from taking effect. That’s what makes the measure now cruising through the General Assembly so exciting, according to Myrna Perez, Director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “There seems to be some real truth-telling, right? There seems to be some acknowledgment of the real facts on the ground,” Perez said.
North Carolina: Near-unanimous North Carolina House passes funding, rules to prepare for spike in voting by mail | Will Dorn/Raleigh News & Observer
A bill making it easier for people to vote by mail in the 2020 elections passed with near-unanimous support Thursday in the N.C. House of Representatives. State officials have told lawmakers that normally, around 4% or 5% of North Carolinians vote by mail. But because of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and public health concerns, they expect that it could grow to as high as 40% this year. “The most important thing about the bill is that it gives the State Board of Elections and county boards the flexibility and resources needed to accommodate the expected increase in absentee ballot requests due to the pandemic,” Republican Rep. Holly Grange, the bill’s lead sponsor, told The News & Observer last week when she first filed it. The bill would spend millions of dollars on that goal, as well as on public health concerns for polling places, cyber security improvements and more. It would also make it easier for people to request mail-in ballots, reduce the witness requirement for such ballots from two people to one, and mandate the use of technology that would let voters track their ballots to make sure they actually get submitted.
An elections bill responding to the coronavirus pandemic moved through two House committees Wednesday on its way to what appears to be likely passage by the full House Thursday. House Bill 1169 makes changes, some temporary and others permanent, to make voting by mail easier and more secure at the same time. “Voting is going to change. Right now, we only have 5 percent usually of absentee ballot voting. We’re expecting that to be significantly higher,” explained primary sponsor Rep. Holly Grange, R-New Hanover. “So, we wanted to make sure we gave the county boards of elections the resources that they needed and the guidance so that they could execute a safe election.” For 2020, the requirement of two witnesses for an absentee ballot is dropped to one witness, who is required to print his or her name and address. Voters will also be able to submit an official absentee ballot request online or by fax or email as well as by mail or in person.
North Carolina: Lawsuit argues North Carolina’s voting laws aren’t built for a pandemic | Travis Fain/WRAL
Left-leaning advocacy groups have filed a federal lawsuit demanding changes in North Carolina’s voting laws due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The 72-page suit declares the state’s absentee ballot and voter registration rules unconstitutional, saying people can’t be forced to choose between voting and protecting their health. Among other things, it calls for a longer registration period and contact-less drop boxes for absentee ballots, in case there are post office delays. The suit is the latest in a string of legal actions that may decide the ground rules leading up to the November presidential election in North Carolina. There are more than half a dozen lawsuits pending. State lawmakers filed legislation Friday that addresses some the issues targeted by the suit, but not all of them. Allison Riggs, chief voting rights counsel for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said that bill doesn’t go far enough.
North Carolina: Voters fearful of COVID-19 but wanting to vote would get help from this proposed bill | Taft Wireback/Greensboro News & Record
North Carolina legislators are moving ahead on a bill aimed at making it easier for voters across North Carolina to protect themselves from the COVID-19 virus by voting from home. The bipartisan measure removes obstacles for those who would rather vote using an absentee ballot rather than in the group setting of their local precincts. But it also closes off loopholes that skeptics fear could lead to fraud, backers say. “We are genuinely interested in a process that will protect people’s health and their right to vote,” said state Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Greensboro, a primary sponsor of the measure. “We expect the pandemic to be a problem still in the fall … No one should have to chose between their health and their right to vote.” The “Elections 2020” bill goes before the state House Committee on Elections and Ethics Law on Wednesday morning. Supporters are hoping it wins approval from the full House later this week, followed soon by favorable action in the state Senate, Harrison said. The changes would directly affect voters throughout Guilford County. Local election officials are bracing for a potential onslaught of up to 125,000 mail-in ballots in November linked to fears of being infected with the coronavirus. That’s more than seven times the normal volume of absentee ballots.
North Carolina: Expand vote-by-mail for 2020, says a bipartisan group of lawmakers | Will Dorna/Raleigh News & Observer
With uncertainty looming over how serious coronavirus will be this fall, a bipartisan push at the state legislature would make it easier for North Carolinians to vote by mail this year. State officials are expecting a massive increase in people wanting to vote by mail in November. The legislature wants to make sure that goes smoothly, said Rep. Pricey Harrison, who has co-sponsored a new elections bill along with one fellow Democrat and two Republicans. Usually, Harrison said, fewer than 5% of North Carolina voters choose to vote by mail — but for 2020, “they’re expecting a surge of up to 40%.” Republican Rep. Holly Grange, the lead sponsor of House Bill 1169, said they wanted to give both state and local elections officials “the flexibility and resources needed to accommodate the expected increase in absentee ballot requests due to the pandemic.” People who vote by mail now have to find two people to serve as witnesses while they vote. But the bill filed Friday would drop that requirement to just one witness. Voters are currently not allowed to request absentee ballots by email or fax, but this bill would lift those restrictions.
North Carolina: Bipartisan election bill promised as others fight over ballot rules | Travis Fain/WRAL
House leaders are close to filing a bill, with bipartisan support, changing state election rules because of the pandemic. The measure has most of what the State Board of Elections asked for two months ago when it rolled out a laundry list of requests, Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, said Thursday. There are key exceptions though: The bill won’t make Election Day a holiday, and it won’t cover postage costs on absentee ballots, both state board requests. The bill would forbid the board from going to an all-mail-ballot election in November, something the State Board of Elections has not requested but has been a concern for conspiracy theorists nonetheless. Mail-in ballots are already available in North Carolina to any voter who requests one, and they would remain so. Lewis, a top House Republican on election issues, confirmed some details of the bill Thursday and said it will likely be ready Friday after weeks of conversation. He said the bill would also include “a significant amount of money” for local boards of elections.