AN ACT TO AMEND THE LAWS GOVERNING MAIL-IN ABSENTEE BALLOTS; TO RESTORE THE LAST SATURDAY OF EARLY ONE-STOP VOTING; TO EXTEND THE TIME BY WHICH COUNTY BOARDS OF ELECTIONS NEED TO REPLACE DIRECT RECORD ELECTRONIC VOTING EQUIPMENT UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS; TO AUTHORIZE A COUNTY TO TEST NEW VOTING EQUIPMENT DURING A SIMULATED ELECTION; AND TO MAKE APPROPRIATIONS FOR CURRENT OPERATIONS OF THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, CONSISTENT WITH HOUSE BILL 966 OF THE 2019 REGULAR SESSION.
Amends GS 163A-1306 to establish separate requirements for county boards of elections records regarding early one-stop absentee ballots voted, distinct from records regarding mail-in absentee ballot requests. Directs the State Board of Elections (State Board) to approve an official register in which each county board must record (1) the name of the voter for whom application and ballots are being requested, (2) the number assigned to the voter's application when issued, (3) the precinct in which the voter is registered, (4) the date the voter voted early one-stop, (5) the voter's party affiliation, and (6) any additional information and official action required by law. Makes the official records for early-one stop absentee ballots constitute a public record and requires that it be open to inspection by any registered voter of the county within 60 days before and 30 days after an election in which absentee ballots were authorized, or at any other time good and sufficient reason is assigned for its inspection. Allows the State Board to provide the official registers to be kept in electronic data processing equipment. With regard to mail-in absentee ballot requests, deems the official record confidential and not public record until the opening of the voting place, at which time the official register constitutes public record (currently, the register of absentee requests, applications, and ballots issued constitutes public record, open for inspection within 60 days before and 30 days after an election or any other time as described). Eliminates the requirement for the register to have daily printed copies and supplements. Makes further technical and conforming changes.
Amends GS 163A-1313 to require any copies of any photo identification associated with absentee ballot requests, or returned applications and ballots, not public record. Makes technical changes.
Amends GS 163A-871 to also deem confidential and not public record full or partial Social Security numbers; dates of birth; identity of the public agency where the individual registered, any email addresses submitted under Article 17, Qualifying to Vote, or Part 2, Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act, Article 21 (previously, did not include Article 17); and drivers license numbers that may be generated by the voter, the State Board, or a county board in the mail-in absentee ballot process (previously, did not include identifiers generated by the voter; previously, applied to such information generated in the voter registration process).
Amends GS 163A-1308, as amended, which provides for the procedure for completing absentee ballot request forms. Eliminates the absentee ballot request form. Instead, requires a qualified voter eligible to vote by absentee ballot under existing law (GS 163A-1295(a)), or that voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian, to request in writing an application for absentee ballots so that the county board receives the request no later than 5:00 p.m. on the Tuesday before the election (identical to the same time period for completing request forms). Requires the written request to be signed by the voter, the voter's near relative, or the voter's verifiable legal guardian. Requires county boards to use existing procedures to record requests, applications, and ballots issued. Maintains requirements for county boards to mail the official ballot, a container-return envelope, and an instruction sheet. Concerning absentee ballots for voters unable to go to the voting place in person on election day due to sickness or other physical disability, requires the voter or the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian to make the same written request in person for absentee ballots to the county board no later than 5:00 p.m. on the day before the election. Now requires the county board to enter specified information into the register regarding these absentee requests, applications, and ballots issued, and requires the county board to personally deliver to the requester the official ballot, a container-return envelope, and an instruction sheet in a single-package (previously, permitted personal delivery to the voter or the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian). Makes conforming changes.
Amends GS 163A-1309, making conforming changes to eliminate provisions relating to the State Board's request form for absentee ballots. Instead, enacts the following new requirements. Requires written requests for an absentee ballot to be written entirely by the requester personally, or on a form generated by the county board, and signed by the requester and submitted together with the required identification. Requires each request to include any form of valid identification as described in GS 163A-1145.1(a) or an affidavit as described in GS 163A-1145.1(d) (exceptions for religious objection, reasonable impediment, or natural disaster). Limits issuance of the request form by a county board to the voter seeking to vote by absentee ballot or the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian authorized to make a request for the voter. Provides that, if a requester is unable to complete a written request due to disability or illiteracy, the requester can receive assistance in writing the request from an individual of that requester's choice. Requires the State Board to adopt rules to implement and enforce the provisions.
Directs the State Board to prepare and disseminate to the county boards and post on its website an instruction sheet for voters regarding the process to request a mail-in absentee ballot, no later than December 1, 2019, in English and any other languages the State Board deems appropriate. Requires periodic updates to the instruction sheet to reflect any changes in relevant law.
Amends GS 163A-1317 increasing the following criminal offenses regarding absentee ballots from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a Class 1 misdemeanor: making false statements under oath, making false statements not under oath for the purpose of obtaining or voting any official ballot, witnessing an absentee ballot of a nonrelative by a candidate, and any other willful noncompliance with absentee ballot laws. Makes attempting to vote by fraudulently signing the name of a regularly qualified voter a Class G felony rather than a Class I felony. Adds the following new offenses. Makes it a Class 2 misdemeanor to sell or attempt to sell, or purchase or agree to purchase, completed applications and ballots. Makes it a Class G felony to intentionally fail to deliver or intentionally destroy completed written requests, completed applications for absentee ballots, or voted absentee ballots. Makes it a Class G felony for any person other than the voter or the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian to makes copies or otherwise retain the request for absentee ballots, completed applications for absentee ballots, or any identifying information, as specified, disclosed in a request or application. Makes it a Class 2 misdemeanor to compensate another or to accept compensation based on the number of returned written requests for absentee ballots under GS 163A-1309, as amended. Applies to offenses committed on or after December 1, 2019.
Amends GS 163A-1300 to modify the one-stop voting period. Now sets the period to be no earlier than the third Thursday before an election and no later than 1:00 p.m. on the last Saturday before the election (was, no earlier than the third Wednesday before an election, and no later than 7:00 p.m. on the last Friday before the election). Adds an explicit requirement for county boards to conduct one-stop voting on the last Saturday before the election from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., and permits a county board to continue until 5:00 p.m. on that day.
Amends GS 163A-1303(c)(4), which provides that if a county board must open one-stop sites on Saturdays during the one-stop period, the county must have all one-stop sites open for the same number of hours throughout the county on those Saturdays, to except the last Saturday before the election from the requirement.