Pro-polluter legislators renewed their assault on voting rights last week, advancing bills that would impose unneeded new restrictions on absentee ballots and that threaten naturalized citizens’ voting rights. Legislators advanced these and other new voting restrictions with spurious claims of non-existent election fraud.
Senate Bill 326, the misleadingly named “Election Day Integrity Act,” would require that legally cast absentee ballots that are not received by 5 p.m. on Election Day be discarded. In reality, there’s no evidence of fraud associated with ballots that are timely when cast but delayed by the mail through no fault of the voter. In 2020, over 11,000 legal ballots would have been thrown out had this law been in effect then.
“These bills are an attempt to gaslight the public,” said Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover. “We need to stop this charade. When you intentionally attempt to chill participation in elections by undermining voter confidence with information that is flatly wrong, you are tearing at the fabric of our democracy.”
House Bill 259, the equally mistitled “Election Integrity Act,” includes a provision that would target immigrants for disenfranchisement and harassment by purging voter rolls of people who’ve been excused from jury service in the past. As advocates at the ACLU of North Carolina have noted, the bill could result in “legitimate, naturalized voters being flagged for removal as non-citizens.”
Voting rights groups like Democracy North Carolina urged that these attacks on voting rights be blocked. “This legislation lives in the shadow of the events of the past weeks, years, and decades of oppression. They are part of a larger effort to dismantle voter freedoms, and to target and silence the most vocal communities in our state,” said Cheryl Carter, Interim Co-Executive Director of Democracy NC. “We ask our state leaders to stand against these deeply troubling and disappointing Jim Crow-era voter suppression tactics and instead support North Carolinians’ freedom to vote and expand participation at every level. North Carolinians deserve better.”
The good news is Gov. Roy Cooper is likely to veto these bills, and will also likely have the votes from his party’s legislators to sustain those vetoes. Last week, we signed a letter with other democracy advocacy organizations asking the governor to take this action. In case you missed it two weeks ago, we also filed suit in state court to overturn the General Assembly’s gerrymandered congressional and legislative maps.