Bill Summary for H 1169 (2019-2020)

Summary date: 

May 22 2020

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2019-2020 Session
House Bill 1169 (Public) Filed Friday, May 22, 2020
AN ACT TO MAKE VARIOUS CHANGES TO THE LAWS RELATED TO ELECTIONS AND TO APPROPRIATE FUNDS TO THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS IN RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC.
Intro. by Grange, Dahle, D. Hall, Harrison.

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Bill summary

Section 1

Provides the following requirements for elections held in 2020.

Requires returned absentee ballots to be accepted and processed by the county board of elections (county board) if the voter marked the ballot in the presence of at least one person who is at least 18 years old and is not disqualified under state law, so long as the person signed the application and certificate as a witness and printed that person's name and address on the container-return envelope, and all other absentee ballot requirements are met. Allows the State Board of Elections (State Board) to prepare applications for each container-return envelope accordingly.

Requires county boards to ensure that at least one precinct assistant is a registered voter of the precinct, and allows for the appointment of otherwise qualified registered voters in the same county to serve as precinct assistants, if there are an insufficient number of precinct assistants to meet the precinct residency requirement for a precinct. Requires county boards to ensure that at least one chief judge or judge is a registered voter of the precinct, and allows for the appointment of registered voters from other precincts in the same county to fill the other two chief judge or judge positions in the precinct.

Permits any individual working as part of the multipartisan team trained and authorized by the county board pursuant to state law to assist any voter in the completion of a request for absentee ballots or in delivering a completed request form for absentee ballots to the county board.

Effective July 1, 2020, and expires December 31, 2020.

Section 2

For 2020 elections, allows for a completed written request for absentee ballots to be delivered in person or by mail, e-mail, or fax, to the county board by the voter, the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian, or any individual trained and authorized as part of the multipartisan team. Further specifies the valid methods of delivery pursuant to specified state and federal laws.

Directs the Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS) and the State Board to develop and submit a report to specified NCGA committees and the Governor by August 1, 2020, detailing how to safely allow trained and authorized multipartisan team members to access hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and rest homes under quarantine to assist voters in requesting, voting, and returning absentee ballots.

Section 3

Amends GS 163-229, as amended, to require container-return envelopes to have a bar code or unique identifier to allow the county board and the voter to track the ballot following its return to the county board. Effective September 1, 2020, and applies to elections held on or after that date.

Section 4

Amends GS 163-230.1, as amended, to require county boards to begin meeting on the fifth Tuesday before an election in which absentee ballots are authorized, rather than the third Tuesday before, to hold at least one public meeting each Tuesday to take action on absentee ballot applications.

Section 5

Amends GS 163-230.2, as amended, to specify that the State Board is responsible for making blank request forms available at its offices, online, and at county board offices. Adds a new provision to allow voters to call a county board office and request that the blank request form be sent to the voter by mail, e-mail, or fax.

Section 6

Amends GS 163-27.1 to prohibit the Executive Director or the State Board from (1) delivering absentee ballots to eligible voters who did not submit a valid written request form for absentee ballots pursuant to state law or (2) ordering an election to be conducted using all mail-in absentee ballots.

Section 7

Enacts GS 163-230.3 to establish an alternative, online method for absentee ballots requests rather than the completed written request form, with all other absentee ballot requirements remaining applicable. Requires the State Board to establish a secure website to permit qualified voters eligible to vote by absentee ballot, or that voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian, to submit an online request for absentee ballots. Requires the website to be able to track the IP address of anyone who accesses the website, and requires the website to require requests to include all information required for a valid written request under state law and an electronic signature of the voter, or the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian, if requesting on behalf of the voter. Requires the State Board to submit online requests received to the respective county board, and requires the county boards to process the online request in the same manner as completed written requests.

Specifies that the State Board is not required to comply with the initial purchase and contract requirements under GS Chapter 143 for establishing or securing a website for online requests. Sunsets this exemption on December 31, 2020.

Requires the State Board to have the secure website available to voters to submit an online request by September 1, 2020.

Section 8

Amends GS 163-237, making it a Class I felony for any person serving on, or as an employee of, the State Board or a county board to knowingly send or deliver an absentee ballot to any person who has not requested it in accordance with state law. Effective July 1, 2020, and applies to offenses committed on or after that date. 

Section 9

Amends GS 20-37.7 to require the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to offer renewal of a special identification card in person and online.

Section 10

Amends GS 163-166.16 to expand the forms of identification that are acceptable to present to vote, regardless of whether the identification contains a printed expiration or issuance date, to also include an identification card issued by a State or federal entity for a public assistance government program.

Section 11

Appropriates the following amounts for the 2020-21 fiscal year to the State Board to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic during the 2020 federal election cycle: $10,987,295 in federal CARES Act funds; and $2,120,497 as the required match from the State General Fund. Requires at least $424,000 to be used by the State Board to establish the online portal for absentee ballot requests. Requires the remaining funds to be allocated in specified amounts to counties for county boards, with base grants based on development tier, and other funds specified on a per registered voter basis for counties that conducted second primary elections after March 10, 2020, and for early one-stop voting expenses for counties that adopt uniform one-stop voting plans that include satellite location operations with specified weekday hours, or based on development tier, as specified. Requires any remaining funds after the required allocations to be allocated to counties on a per registered voter basis for expenses eligible under the CARES Act. Requires the base grants to be used to address the coronavirus pandemic such as increased postage costs, ensuring an adequate number of poll workers, and recruiting for and promoting the use of multipartisan assistance teams. Specifies uses are limited by state and federal law.

Section 11.2

Appropriates the following amounts for the 2020-21 fiscal year to the State Board to a new fund code, titled County Reimbursement Account (Account), to reimburse counties for eligible HAVA (Help American Vote Act) expenses: $11,677,441 from federal HAVA funds; and $2,335,488 as the required match from the State General Fund. Requires the State Board to ensure timely county reimbursement. Entitles each county to at least $10,000 in reimbursements, and caps reimbursement at $250,000 per county. Requires certification that HAVA funds will not be used to supplant county funds, prior to reimbursement. Authorizes the State Board to make bulk purchases from the Account for items on the counties' collective behalf.

Allows the State Board to use portions of the appropriated funds in specified amounts (1) to acquire a more secure system for the delivery and return of uniformed and overseas citizen absentee ballots; (2) to fund State Board security improvements; (3) to assemble Attack Response Kits for county continuity of operations following cyber attacks; (4) for bar code scanners to ensure accurate ballot distribution; (5) to purchase high-speed ballot tabulators for county board disaster recovery or continuity of operations, as needed; (6) to invest in increased ballot-on-demand capacity for county boards for disaster recovery or continuity of operations; (7) to acquire software to modernize the State Board help desk and add a chatbot feature, with staff training on each; and (8) for statewide advertising concerning election law changes and other pandemic response procedures. Requires any unspent funds to revert to the Account and remain until legislatively appropriated. 

Requires county coordination with local political parties to enhance or maintain partisan balance of election day workers. 

Directs the State Board to collaborate with the Division of Emergency Management to purchase and distribute personal protective equipment to deploy to counties pursuant to the above provisions.

Requires the State Board to provide counties with lists of example expenses eligible under HAVA and the Cares Act after consultation with the US Election Assistance Commission.

Directs the State Board to report to the specified NCGA committee and division on the use of funds appropriated in this section by February 1, 2021. Requires counties receiving funds under this section to provide specified information to the State Board for its report, including funding used to expand early one-stop and mail-in absentee ballots and to address the coronavirus pandemic.

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