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Category: North Carolina (page 1 of 3)

North Carolina’s HB 1169, Part 2: The Witness Requirement Saga Reduces to “Chaos”

By: Forrest Via

As discussed previously, the North Carolina General Assembly passed HB 1169 this summer to, in part, loosen absentee-ballot requirements in response to COVID-19: The legislation lowered the state’s absentee-ballot witness-signature requirement to one person. For some, this change was not enough—the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans filed suit against the State Board of Elections, arguing the presence of any witness requirement violated the state constitution due to the circumstances presented by the pandemic.

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Opinion: North Carolina Voter Suppression, the Trump Campaign and the North Carolina Republican Party

By Maxwell Weiss

We are two weeks away from a presidential election with once-in-a-century, massive turnout, and the North Carolina Republican Party is continuing their decades-long effort to suppress votes. In past years, the GOP has used voter ID laws, racial gerrymandering, and in 2018, the first recorded instance of a federal election being called off over voter fraud in United States history. This year, the GOP weaponizes strict absentee voting laws as they try to suppress enough votes for President Trump to win the state.

President Trump himself is attempting to sow discord, specifically suggesting that North Carolina voters try to vote twice to “test” the system. In a September campaign rally, the President told voters to send in an absentee ballot and then go to the polls and vote again on election day. This is part of a larger pattern for Trump, who routinely spreads false information about widespread fraud despite clear evidence that there is absolutely no basis for conspiracy theories that absentee voting leads to election fraud.

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HB 1169, North Carolina’s COVID-19 Election Remedy: A Sufficient Compromise or Too Far and Not Enough?

By: Forrest Via

It’s no news to anyone that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed how Americans go about their daily lives, affecting many activities that we once took for granted as safe. Voting has not been spared from this list. With the November 2020 election quickly approaching, states across the country have adopted measures aimed at ensuring the safety of those casting ballots and supervising the polls on November 3.

North Carolina is one such state. This summer, the North Carolina General Assembly passed HB 1169 (now Session Law (NCSL) 2020-17 after Governor Roy Cooper’s signature in June), a bipartisan piece of legislation that, among its many provisions, lowers the state’s absentee ballot witness requirement to one person; allows individuals to request absentee ballots via email or fax; and provides funding for election officials to carry out their duties in the face of challenges presented by the pandemic.

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The Fate of North Carolina Senate Bill 68: Still Uncertain and Still Causing Issues for Local Counties

By: Hannah Littlefield

As discussed in Part I of this two-part blog series, Senate Bill 68 (“SB 68”) is one of the more interesting election issues emerging from North Carolina. SB 68 merged the North Carolina Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission, forming the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. The boards merged in June 2017; however, Governor Roy Cooper has yet to appoint members to the new board.

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North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement: When did this happen?   

By: Hannah Littlefield

 Senate Bill 68 (“SB 68”) is arguably the most interesting election law issue in North Carolina. SB 68 merged the North Carolina Board of Elections and the State Ethics Commission, forming the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. The boards merged in June 2017; however, Governor Roy Cooper has yet to appoint members to the new board 

What is SB 68? SB 68 is a revision of Senate Bill 4—a bill created by the Republican-led General Assembly—that was struck down by a three-judge panel. The three-judge panel originally ruled that the merger was unconstitutional. Republican lawmakers revised Senate Bill 4, now SB 68, and passed the new bill on April 25, 2017. What is so interesting about SB 68? Three things: (1) SB 68 was created without a severability clause; (2) Governor Cooper filed a lawsuit against the legislative leaders arguing that SB 68 violates the Separation of Powers clause, interferes with the Governor’s ability to “faithfully execute the laws,” and violates the “non-delegation doctrine;” and (3) the press has not really caught on to the importance of the issues surrounding SB 68.   

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Small Parties Put Up Big Fight for Ballot Access in North Carolina

By: Collin Crookenden

Though the history of minor-party candidates dates back to long before the advent of political primaries, the solidification of the two major political parties has prohibited third-party candidates from being true challengers in presidential races. In fact, since George Wallace’s semi-successful campaign in 1968, no third-party representative has won a single electoral college vote. Instead of vying for the presidency, like Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 or Wallace in 1968, recent minor-party candidates are running to “make a statement against the two-party system.” However, the 2016 presidential election cycle highlighted the lack of faith in the two major political parties and the strengthening desire from many for strong third party or independent presidential candidates. Both major-party candidates had unfavorable ratings higher than 50% through Election Day, which activated a large push for third-party candidates on all state ballots and questioned state laws on ballot access.

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North Carolina’s Battle for Voter Identification

By: Collin Crookenden

With the recent invalidation of the coverage formula set forth in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, several previously covered districts implemented stricter voting requirements. In 2013, immediately following the invalidation, North Carolina enacted Session Law 2013-381 which contained multiple provisions that were contested as soon as Governor McCrory (R) signed it into effect: photo identification requirements, shortened early voting periods, and elimination of pre-registration for individuals under the age of 18. The new requirements were set to go into effect January 2016 and were in fact utilized in the primaries earlier this year, after the legislature altered the law in 2015. Of primary concern to the litigants and to the legislation’s opposition was the requirement of all voters to show photo identification. Most states have some form of identification requirements, but North Carolina’s 2013 version maintained some of the most stringent provisions. Governor McCrory argued that these, specifically the photo identification statute, were “common sense” pieces of legislation. However, while the district court agreed with his assessment, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the legislation was in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination of voting requirements based upon race.

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Federal Court Ruling Creates Chaos for North Carolina Primaries But There May Be a Solution

By: Blake Willis

Election litigation has experienced a new spike in recent years, with many states being involved with litigation over redistricting plans, Voter I.D. laws, and other ballot access issues. Since the inception of litigation under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), there has been a consistent concern that federal courts should not be involved in determining the policies of voting, re-districting, and other related issues. Cases such as plurality opinion Davis v. Bandemer express such concerns, stating that partisan gerrymandering concerns are not justiciable, and that opening the door for federal courts to examine similar claims may set a dangerous precedent. In Veith v. Jubelirer, Justice Scalia echoed this sentiment, arguing that it is an increasingly difficult task for courts to determine what the predominant factor for drawing a district line may be. The expanding jurisprudence from both partisan and racial gerrymandering cases proves this argument may hold some validity, as evidenced by courts’ disagreement over the correct standard to apply, what the evidentiary standard should be, and who the burden of proof rests upon, as just a few examples. Although this litigation has been ongoing for decades, it is by no means near reaching an end.

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North Carolina’s 2013 Voting Laws Were Struck Down By the 4th Circuit, But The State May Not Be Out of the Legal Fights Yet

By: Blake Willis

When the Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina HB 589, the notorious law which toughened voter-ID requirements, limited early voting, and limited same-day registration, many who champion voter rights believed that North Carolina’s long-standing history as a state with suppressive voter laws may begin to change. However, that optimism may be short lived as North Carolina is now facing challenges on two other election law provisions.

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Crafting Competitive Criteria: The Institution is Critical

By: Benjamin Williams

With the rapid increase in political polarization in recent years, momentum is building in several states to dramatically alter the redistricting process after the 2020 Census. True to the idea of the states being laboratories of democracy, there have been state constitutional amendments in Florida, partisan gerrymandering challenges in Wisconsin, Maryland, and North Carolina, redistricting criteria bills in Virginia, as well as a myriad of racial gerrymandering challenges. But the new idea—based on a blend of Iowa-style and Florida-style redistricting—is to create stringent criteria for legislatures to follow. That idea is simple enough: if the redistricting body (legislature, independent redistricting commission, college students, etc.) is forced to follow strict criteria when redistricting, the result will be “better” districts that aren’t ugly and are more competitive. But does the data actually bear this out?

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