by Dr. Andy Jackson
Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, John Locke Foundation
The North Carolina House Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 747, An Act to Make Various Changes Regarding Elections Law, later today (August 15).
Jim Stirling and I gave a short review of S747, at least as short as a review of a 23-part bill can be, in early June. That version packed numerous reforms into its 16 pages. Those reforms included:
We noted when the bill came out that we expected there to be changes to it:
Legislators and politicos will argue over parts of the election reform bill ad nauseum in the coming days and the bill’s final version will likely look different from its current form.
We were not wrong.
There are numerous additions to the bill in the S747 proposed committee substitute (PCS) being considered by the House. The bill has grown to 42 pages in the PCS.
Much of that growth is due to the PCS making early voting a unique voting method rather than the subset of absentee voting it is under current law. That required changes in several parts of election law. For example, the PCS strikes 66 mentions of “one-stop” or “one-stop absentee.” Most of those mentions are replaced with “early voting.” One practical difference of the change is that people voting early will no longer have to sign an absentee request application when they vote early.
The PCS also incorporates House Bill 772, reforms clarifying what election observers may and may not do at election sites, into S747.
Some of the other additional reforms in the PCS include:
One thing that is not in the PCS is a reference to “two-factor authentication” for mail ballots. We struggled to understand what that meant in the context of ballots in our review of the bill (Part XX). Apparently, legislators struggled with that as well.
Finally, the PCS adds a severability clause, which would allow most of the bill to remain operative if a part of it is enjoined or struck down. That is crucial for a bill this size that will surely draw lawsuits from the usual suspects.
Senate Bill 747 was a good bill when it passed the Senate. The House PCS makes it even better.