Bill Summary for H 772 (2023-2024)

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Summary date: 

Apr 20 2023

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2023-2024 Session
House Bill 772 (Public) Filed Tuesday, April 18, 2023
Intro. by Davis, Cleveland, Mills, Warren.

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Bill summary

Amends GS 163-45 concerning election observers as follows. Allows for political parties to designate two observers during one-stop early voting in addition to primary and election days. Allows for two site-specific observers and up to two at-large observers from the same political party to be permitted in the voting enclosure (currently allows for two observers and one at-large observer), but bars having more than three observers from the same political party physically present in the voting enclosure at any time. Changes the appointment of observers to permit county or State political party chairs to submit a list of names of observers appointed by the chairs to the county board director, who is then required to supply the lists of site-specific observers for each voting location and the at-large observers to the chief judge and site supervisor for each voting location. Eliminates requirements for the lists to be signed by the individuals authorized to appoint observers. Requires the county director (was, the party chair) to deliver copies of the precinct-specific observer list and the list of at-large observers to the chief judge or site supervisor for each voting location (previously required the party chair to deliver a copy of the list to the chief judge and the county director to deliver a copy of the at-large observers to the chief judge; did not allow for delivery of copies to the site supervisor). Eliminates authority for the chair or chief judge to reject appointees and require replacement appointments. Prohibits observers from electioneering at the voting enclosure (was, the voting place); impeding the voting process of any voter; or observing the ballot markings of any voter (was, interfering or communicating with or observing any voter in casting a ballot). Authorizes site administrators, chief judges, and elections judges to permit observers to observe and take notes (previously limited to chief judge or elections judges), subject to the stated restrictions. Adds new authority for the State Board of Elections (State Board) to require observers to wear ID tags for ease of recognition by voters and election officials. 

Enacts new subsection (c1), listing 19 rights of election observers, including among others: (1) moving freely around the voting closure, up to five feet from the registration and ballot tables, tabulation machines, and vehicle passenger compartments, and hearing conversations between poll workers and voters; (2) beginning observation duties from the time the judge or site supervisor enters the polling location until all ballot containers are sealed and the voting enclosure secured; (3) hear the voter and election worker recite the name and address of the voter and any conversation at the registration table; and (4) use electronic devices to take notes and communicate, except taking phone calls inside the voting enclosure during voting hours.

Enacts new subsection (c2), listing eight prohibited acts of observers, including among others: (1) wearing or distributing campaign materials or electioneering; (2) speaking with voters; (3) positioning themselves to view confidential voter information on poll books or poll worker computers, or voter ballot markings during the voting process; and (4) providing voting assistance to, impeding, or communicating with any voter inside the voting enclosure. 

Enacts new subsection (c3) to authorize a chief judge or site supervisor to remove an observer for violations of the statute. Sets forth the procedure for removal, including requiring first issuing a warning and allowing the observer a reasonable opportunity to conform to the rules; requiring issuing a written report stating the time and nature of the rules violation; and requiring notifying the county director within 30 minutes of removal, who must notify the appointing authority. Allows for the appointing authority to immediately replace the observer. Bars prohibiting citizens from serving as observers without hearing and due process. 

Allows each observer to obtain a list of the persons who have voted during that day of the election, or inspect the authorized to vote document, not less than three times, not less than three hours apart (was one hour apart), each day of the election (no longer requiring times to be specified by the State Board). 

Enacts new subsection (f) making it a Class 1 misdemeanor for election officials to restrict or deny observers access greater than what is allowed under federal law.

Makes further organizational and conforming changes. 

Amends GS 163-165, which sets forth defined terms applicable to voting laws in Article 14A, to define voting enclosure to mean the area within the voting location used to complete the voting process (was, the room within the voting place used for voting), and explicitly includes any vehicle compartment containing one or more voters parked in the designated curbside voting area. 

Amends GS 163-166.2 to require each voting enclosure to contain at least three chairs for each party's observers.

Applies to observers for elections held on or after the date the act becomes law.