North Carolina Governor Vetoes Election Bill

August 25, 2023 by Dan McCue
North Carolina Governor Vetoes Election Bill
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper delivering his veto message on Thursday.

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed a sweeping Republican-backed elections bill Thursday, dismissing the legislation as “an all-out assault on the right to vote” and setting up a showdown with the Legislature.

SB 747 would have dramatically changed early voting procedures in North Carolina, eliminating the three-day grace period for mail-in ballots, requiring more poll workers for early voting sites and giving more leeway to observers.

It would also have set in motion tighter policing for voter rolls and require more personnel to work at precincts.

In a video message posted to social media, Cooper chided Republican lawmakers, who hold a one-vote supermajority in the Legislature, for relying on advice from Cleta Mitchell. Mitchell is a former member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives who was a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

“This attack has nothing to do with election security and everything to do with keeping and gaining power,” Cooper continued. 

“If you’re a young person, Republicans really don’t want you to vote,” the governor said. “If you’re a college student away from home, Republicans really don’t want you to vote. If you’re Black or Brown, Republicans really don’t want you to vote. 

“They’ve done their research, and they know when and how you vote. And they know you aren’t as likely to vote for them,” he continued. “They know that you can change the outcome of elections. So they’re making it harder for you to vote, hoping that you won’t bother,” he said.

It’s not clear if or for how long Cooper’s veto will stand. The state’s General Assembly will reconvene on Monday, but so far, it has no voting sessions on its schedule.

Republicans currently have a supermajority in both the state House and Senate, and also hold a majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court, raising the prospect that they could prevail in any court fights over the election overhaul measure.

So far this session, the Republican supermajority has overridden about 14 of Cooper’s vetoes, including six in the past week.

Cooper is term-limited and cannot run for reelection in 2024. However, the outcome of his latest showdown with the Legislature is expected to have a profound effect on the presidential contest next year — a race in which North Carolina is once again expected to be a battleground state — and what is anticipated to be a highly competitive gubernatorial race.

Already this year, the state’s 7.3 million registered voters are having to adapt to North Carolina’s new voter ID requirements, which are going into effect this fall ahead of a multitude of local elections.

Republicans, including House Speaker Tim Moore, say the bill includes “balanced, commonsense election reforms” intended to improve efficiency and restore trust in the state’s electoral process.

Cooper and his fellow Democrats, meanwhile, maintain the changes would make it more difficult for minority groups to cast ballots and could increase intimidation at the polls.

“Unfortunately, these schemes aren’t new in North Carolina, and we’ve stopped many of them before,” Cooper said in his message. “Only this time, Republicans are armed with a one vote legislative supermajority, and a court system stacked with partisan judges who’ve already turned the justice system upside down with two unprecedented election cases decided for Republicans.”

Cooper also promised to veto another election-related bill still working through the Legislature, Senate Bill 749, if it too makes it to his desk.

Also called the “No Partisan Advantage in Elections Act,” it would change the make-up of state and county boards of election by removing appointments by the governor, with even numbers of members appointed evenly by both chambers and both parties.

“Senate Bill 749 gives legislative Republicans more power to influence how elections are run,” Cooper said. “So they’ve created a setup that’s a surefire bet to reduce the number of places you can vote early in your county. It could end up being only one voting place. Think about how long those lines will be.

“They also want to intimidate you by stalking the polling place with Republican poll observers who will be watching you vote and can hear your conversations with election officials,” he continued. “Many of them will be election-denying conspiracy believers trying to disrupt the process and prevent certain people from voting. And if that’s not enough, they want contested election results to be decided by partisan judges or by Republican legislators themselves … that’s dangerous.”

Cooper urges voters to contact their state legislators, telling them to uphold his veto.

“If you commit to call, write, text or visit your legislators and work to hold them accountable in the next election, you will make a difference,” he said. “The fight to protect democracy in North Carolina must be won … we need your help to do it.”

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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  • 2024 election
  • Election Law
  • elections
  • North Carolina
  • Roy Cooper
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