North Carolina NOW Legislative Update—15 June 2020
This week HB1169, Elections 2020, was ratified and signed by the governor. The primary purpose of the bill was to allocate available federal funds to help conduct the 2020 elections , which is a requirement before the state can receive the funds. It was a bipartisan compromise bill that also made some needed changes in the elections law. However, Democrats were not successful in their attempt to remove voter ID requirements that are presently being challenged in court and for the time being are not in effect. However, it should be noted that the changes made by this law are temporary and apply only to the 2020 elections.
Democrats were unsuccessful in their attempt to remove the provision for voter ID at the polls (no voter ID is required for absentee ballots). It is doubtful that voter ID will be required for the 2020 election. The voter ID provision cannot be enforced while lawsuits claiming that the law was racially motivated make their way through the courts. Even if the issue could be resolved in time for the 2020 elections, imagine trying to match voters with photo IDs while voters are wearing masks.
Republicans evidently tried to strengthen their court case by adding a new form of photo ID that could be accepted at the polls: “An identification card issued by a department, agency, or entity of the United States government or this State for a government program of public assistance.” The problem with this provision is that no public assistance programs issue photo IDs. A few Democrats did not support the bill because the photo ID section was retained and expanded..
On the brighter side, some changes are positive. Only one witness instead of two will be required to sign absentee ballots, and voters will be allowed to request absentee ballots by mail, email, fax, or through an online portal. A new provision requires absentee ballots to have a bar code that will allow ballots to be tracked after they are submitted to the county board of elections. The bill also allows poll workers more flexibility and allocates money to state and counties to conduct the election during a pandemic.
Still this bill is a stop-gap measure that offers only a temporary, partial fix for North Carolina’s election laws. There are many more reforms that need to be made, but perhaps future sessions can begin by making the positive changes in this law permanent. The struggle for fairness in elections is far from over.
See more at NC NOW Legislative Report for 15_June_2020.