For this year’s scorecard, we’re taking the unprecedented step of scoring election-related bills. Part of our mission as the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters is to create a political environment that protects our natural environment. Therefore, it’s critical we protect everyone’s equal freedom to vote and fight attacks on our democracy, especially for communities of color who are most impacted by climate change, environmental injustice, and voting barriers.
In the 2021 long session, Senate Republicans filed several bills which would have restricted access to the ballot. Despite seemingly pro-democracy titles like “Election Day Integrity Act” (Senate Bill 326), “Expand Access to Voting’’ (Senate Bill 724), and “Prohibit Private Money in Elections Admin” (Senate Bill 725), these bills did anything but advance our democracy.
SB 326 would have required mail ballots received after election day be trashed, regardless of when they were postmarked. Longstanding current law allows ballots to be accepted up to 5 p.m. on the third day after Election Day, as long as the ballot is postmarked on or before Election Day.
SB 724 claimed to expand voting access for visually impaired people, but creates redundant requirements for the Board of Elections by direct- ing funds in inefficient ways. The requirements set out in this bill involving the DMV were unnecessary, as tools already exist for these voters.
Lastly, SB 725 would have prohibited the use of private funds in conducting elections. In 2020, the Board of Elections accepted private grants to purchase single-use pens, masks, and other supplies
necessary to conduct an election during a global pandemic. Debate around this issue is ongoing, and several states have passed laws prohibiting use of private funding, while at the same time continuing to underfund elections administration.
Luckily, these bills were unsuccessful during the 2021-22 session. SB 724 passed the Senate, but was not taken up for a vote in the House. Gov. Cooper vetoed the other two, and legislators never attempted to override his vetoes. In his comments on the vetoes, Cooper emphasized how fundamental elections are to our system of government, and called for “properly funding election boards to ensure accessible, safe, and secure elections every time.”
While Republicans were trying to restrict voting access during the 2021-22 session, House and Senate Democrats filed several bills to do the opposite. Notably through House Bill 446, House Bill 542/Senate Bill 716, House Bill 839, House Bill 887, Senate Bill 364, and Senate Bill 916, Democrats proposed such reforms as automatic voter registration, secure online registration, pre-registration for eligible people over 16 years of age, and same-day voter registration on Election Day. These bills also called for a return to nonpartisan state judicial elections, a nonpartisan redistricting process, and protections for voters and election workers against interference and intimidation. Though these bills did not move through the General Assembly this year, we applaud our Democratic allies who are fighting to defend democracy. NCLCV will continue to track attempts at bolstering or weakening democracy here in North Carolina because we know how important it is for every voter to be heard at the ballot box.