Bill Summary for H 446 (2021-2022)

Summary date: 

Mar 30 2021

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2021
House Bill 446 (Public) Filed Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Intro. by Morey, Dahle, K. Smith, Quick.

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Bill summary

Part I.

Amends GS 163-82.3 and GS 163-82.6 authorizing county boards of elections to accept automatic voter registration.

Amends GS 163-82.19 to require, beginning January 1, 2022, the Division of Motor Vehicles, in consultation with the State Board of Elections, to develop and implement a method by which eligible individuals shall be automatically registered to vote.  Requires DMV officials taking driver's license applications to affirmatively inquire whether the applicant wishes to register to vote or update their registration, note the applicant's response, and register the applicant to vote if the applicant wishes.  The applicant must attest to the information provided for voter registration. Confidentiality of voter information must be maintained by the State Board of Elections. Specifies that the statute does not require the Department of Transportation to determine eligibility for voter registration and voting.

The above provisions are effective January 1, 2022.

Amends GS 163-82.20 to require, beginning January 1, 2023, voter registration agencies (which include state offices that accept applications for public assistance, services for persons with disabilities, and unemployment benefits) to provide, in consultation with the State Board of Elections, an application process for automatic voter registration with each recertification, renewal, or change of address relating to the service or assistance of the agency.  Specifies certain procedural requirements substantially similar to those provided for in GS 163-82.19, as amended. Does not require an agency to provide automatic voter registration to a person with a disability at the person's home. Requires electronic transmittal of applications to the appropriate board of elections.

Amends GS 163-82.20A to authorize automatic voter registration at the time of restoration of citizenship, effective January 1, 2022. Further amends the statute to authorize online voter registration at the time of restoration of citizenship. 

Part II.

Amends GS 163-82.6 to no longer prohibit the use of an electronically captured signature on a voter registration form, including signatures on applications generated by computer programs of third-party groups. 

Part III.

Amends GS 163-82.5 by adding the requirement that the State Board of Elections make the voter registration application forms available for completion and submission on a secure website.

Enacts new GS 163-82.5A allowing an individual to register to vote or change voter registration online if the individual: (1) is eligible to register to vote and (2) possesses a current and valid North Carolina driver's license (including a learner's permit or provisional license) or a special identification card for nonoperators. Requires the State Board to establish a secure website for the completion and submission of voter registration applications. Specifies information that the website must allow an individual to submit, including information to establish eligibility and the individual's email address. Requires the county board of elections, upon receipt of an online application, to verify specified applicant information. Requires the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to transfer the applicant's digital signature in the DMV records to the State Board if the State Board verifies the driver's license or Social Security number. Requires the State Board to notify the applicant if the State Board cannot verify the driver's license or Social Security number.

Amends GS 163-82.10 to add electronic data associated with online voter registration under new GS 163-82.5A to the information that is confidential.

Effective December 1, 2021.

Part IV.

Amends GS 163-231 to require an absentee voting ballot to be witnessed by one person instead of two. Removes provisions related to a notary acting as a witness in lieu of the two witnesses. Makes conforming changes. Makes conforming changes to GS 163-229 concerning the identification of witnesses on the container-return envelope. 

Amends GS 163-230.2 by adding the requirement that the State Board of Elections (State Board), at least 90 days before a primary or general election, collaborate with county boards of elections to ensure every registered voter in this state receives by mail a request form for an absentee ballot. Requires all absentee ballot request forms to be sent with prepaid postage for the return of the request form. Makes conforming changes. Specifies that completed request forms for absentee ballots are to be delivered either in person or by mail, email, or fax to the county board of elections (previously, did not specify the manner of delivery).

Makes a conforming repeal of GS 163-237(d7), which made it a Class I felony for any member serving on the State Board or on any county board of elections, or any employee of the State Board or a county board of elections, to knowingly send or deliver an absentee ballot to any person who has not requested one. 

Amends GS 163-231 to require absentee ballots to be in preaddressed envelopes, postage paid upon return. Adds that when an absentee ballot is received by mail without a postmark, the county board of elections is to verify receipt of the ballot by stamping the date it was received on the ballot. Requires each local board of elections to provide at least one absentee ballot drop box at its county board of elections office at least 15 days before the election and allows providing additional drop boxes. Deems a voter voting by mail-in absentee ballot who deposits the absentee ballot in one of these drop boxes by the close of voting in the precinct on election day to have validly cast that ballot. 

Enacts new GS 163-231.1 requiring the State Board to take all reasonable steps to cure an absentee ballot that would otherwise not be counted because of missing voter signature, witness signature, witness address, or assistant address. Requires notifying voters of signature mismatches or unsigned absentee ballots no later than eight days before certification of the election, and gives voters until 5:00 p.m. two days before the certification of the election to cure the signature information. Makes a presumption that a voter's signature is valid and rejects signatures only if the signatures differ in multiple, significant, and obvious ways. Requires notifying the voter if it appears that the voter's ballot will not be counted, upon which the voter must be given the option to vote in person within the appropriate time constraints or at an authorized polling place.

Part V.

Amends GS 163-41 by removing the prohibition on the county board appointing nonresidents of the precinct to a majority of the three positions of chief judge and judge in a precinct.

Amends GS 163-42 to require the county board, when it is determined that assistants are needed in a precinct, to ensure, when possible, that no precinct has precinct officials who are all registered with the same political party (was, an equal number must be appointed from different political parties, unless the requirement as to party affiliation cannot be met because of an insufficient number of voters of different political parties within the county). Removes the prohibition on the county board appointing nonresidents of the precinct to a majority of the positions as precinct assistant in a precinct.

Part VI.

Amends GS 163-227.6 by allowing a county board of elections, by majority vote of all of its members, to adopt a Plan of Implementation that establishes flexibility in voting hours for the opening and closing of one-stop early voting sites if the county board of elections wants to adopt a Plan that deviates more than two hours from the one-stop early voting schedule under this statute.

Amends GS 163-227.2 by extending the end time of one-stop voting on the last Saturday before the election by two hours to 5:00 pm.

Part VII.

Enacts GS 163-4 to treat the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in each even-numbered year as a legal public holiday for purposes of State employment. 

Encourages private employers in this state to allow their employees to take a day off on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in each even-numbered year to enable those employees to vote on election day.

Part VIII.

Amends GS 163-27.1 to allow the Executive Director of the State Board to exercise emergency powers to conduct an election in a district where the normal schedule for the election is disrupted by a pandemic or national health crisis as declared by the President or the Governor.

Part IX.

Includes a severability clause. 

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