Common Cause responds to final approval of election reform bill

Gov. Roy Cooper signed House Bil 1169 into law today. Though the measure became entangled in a last minute effort by Republicans to resurrect their enjoined voter ID law, voting rights/good government advocates are claiming victory and dismissing the voter ID push as, in effect, too little, too late.

Cooper issued the following statement as he approved the bill:

“Making sure elections are safe and secure is more important than ever during this pandemic, and this funding is crucial to that effort. This legislation makes some other positive changes, but much more work is needed to ensure everyone’s right to vote is protected.”

And the following statement was issued by Common Cause NC this afternoon:

RALEIGH – A day after the NC General Assembly approved House Bill 1169 on a bipartisan vote, Gov. Roy Cooper signed the measure into law on Friday. The bill incorporates a variety of key recommendations from election administrators and democracy advocates to make voting safer and more accessible amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the provisions in House Bill 1169:

  • Reduces the absentee ballot witness requirement from two to one
  • Allows voters to submit an absentee ballot request form via email, online portal, fax, mail or in person (prior to this bill, NC voters could submit an absentee ballot request form only by mail or in person)
  • Gives counties greater flexibility in where they assign poll workers, better allowing them to address possible poll worker shortages at precincts
  • Allocates state matching funds to take advantage of federal CARES Act and HAVA money
  • Allocates funds to counties to prepare for elections amid COVID-19, including the purchasing of personal protective equipment for use at polling places and increasing recruitment and compensation of poll workers
  • Allocates funds for election security and continuity of operations in case of disaster

“As we’ve seen recently in states such as Georgia and Wisconsin, we face unprecedented challenges in holding elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The clock is ticking with less than five months before Election Day and it is crucial that North Carolina prepares now to meet those challenges. While it is not perfect and more could be done, House Bill 1169 is a significant and positive step toward ensuring every voter is able to safely and securely cast a ballot in this year’s elections. We applaud this bipartisan effort,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. “The key next step is to make sure all voters are aware of these changes, especially when it comes to the additional ways that absentee ballots can be requested at a time when we’re likely to see record numbers of North Carolinians wishing to vote by mail.”

A controversial provision in the bill that is unrelated to COVID-19 relief – and that was opposed by Common Cause NC and other pro-democracy groups – deals with voter ID. It is important to note that a court injunction has blocked the implementation of voter ID requirements in North Carolina. This bill’s provision does not supersede the court order that remains in place blocking voter ID. As such, voter ID will not be required unless the court rules otherwise. Common Cause NC opposes discriminatory voter ID requirements that create unfair barriers to voting.”

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