Raleigh, N.C. – The state House of Representatives on Thursday approved bipartisan elections funding and reforms by a vote of 116-3 to meet the challenges of COVID-19, including a total prohibition on all-mail elections in North Carolina and expanding methods to securely request absentee ballots for those who need to do so.
House Bill 1169 Bipartisan Elections Act of 2020 provides funding for local elections boards and adjusts current law to address potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) will address the bill at a 3:30 p.m. press conference on Thursday in the General Assembly.
The legislation makes temporary reforms to North Carolina’s current ‘no-excuse’ absentee ballot policy, which already allows any voter to request an absentee ballot and vote-by-mail without providing justification.
The legislation was approved by the House Committee on Ethics and Elections Law, as well as the House Committee on Rules, Calendar, and Operations of the House, on Wednesday.
H.B. 1169 maintains the ban on the mass gathering or “harvesting” of absentee ballot request forms by groups or individuals, and does not expand strict rules on who is legally authorized to return ballots.
Other reforms in the proposed legislation include:
- Allowing absentee ballot requests to be submitted by email, fax, or a new online portal.
- Providing CARES Act and HAVA matching and federal funds for counties for use for supporting in-person voting and increased absentee ballot costs.
- Providing temporary flexibility for recruiting precinct officials.
- Permanently prohibiting the State Board of Elections from moving to an all-mail election or sending unrequested ballots to voters.
The sponsors of H.B. 1169, Representatives Dahle, Grange, Hall, and Harrison released a joint statement:
“These election reforms and funding received a bipartisan review in the legislative process and represent joint agreement on our shared priorities of making sure every voter in North Carolina has access to the ballot and confidence in our election results,” the lawmakers said in a statement.
Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) has repeatedly said the legislative process is the proper forum for elections law reforms, not unilateral executive or judicial action.
“We continue to forge consensus bipartisan efforts in this General Assembly to provide the people of North Carolina with the funding and reforms they need to meet the challenges of this pandemic, collaboration that will ensure the effective administration of safe and accessible elections in 2020,” Moore said Thursday.