North Carolina House Prepares for Expected Surge in Mail-In Votes in November

May 28, 2020 by Dan McCue

The North Carolina House of Representatives on Thursday gave its near unanimous support to a bill allocating millions of dollars and granting counties more flexibility in dealing with what is expected to be a huge surge in mail-in voting in November.

In most elections, only about 5% of North Carolinians vote by mail, but this year, given the concerns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak and uncertainty over when the pandemic will end, lawmakers believe the number will be closer to 40%

In the end, after debate over some of the bill’s provisions, the measure introduced by Republican State Rep. Holly Grange, passed 116-3.

The State Senate is set to take up the bill next week, and it is expected to pass quickly without any major changes or opposition due to the fact House sponsors worked with the Senate to include measures designed to please each chamber.

If the current expectations hold, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, could have it on his desk for consideration by the end of next week.

To appeal to Democrats, the legislation makes it easier for people to request mail-in ballots, reduces the witness requirement for such ballots from two people to one, and mandates the use of technology that would let voters track their ballots to make sure they actually get submitted.

But Republicans got some of what they wanted — for instance, the bill prevents North Carolina from moving to a 100% vote-by-mail election in November.

It also creates a new felony crime for election officials who send absentee ballots to voters who didn’t go through the proper steps to request one.

The no votes for the measure all came from African-American representatives, who objected to language in the bill that referred to voter ID requirements.

North Carolina’s most recent voter ID laws were struck down by both federal and state courts. The lawmakers said they feared even a benign reference to voter IDs would be a step toward trying to revive the requirement in a way that suited the courts.

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