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.
Conference report makes the following changes to the 6th edition.
Makes organizational changes to the act by adding in Parts and renumbering existing sections.
Instead of amending statutes in GS Chapter 163A, which has been recodified, amends the corresponding statutes in GS Chapter 163. Makes corresponding corrections to statutory cross-references and makes technical change throughout to change references to the State Board of Elections to State Board. Makes the following additional changes.
Amends GS 163-228 (was, GS 163A-1306) as follows. Requires that the official register of absentee requests, applications, and ballots issued, be confidential and not a public record until the opening of the voting place, at which time the register constitutes a public record. Requires that the official register (was, each register) be opened to the inspection of 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 when good and sufficient reason may be assigned for its inspection. Clarifies that the State Board must require the county board of elections to transmit information in the official register and the required list to the State Board. Adds that the State Board or a county board of elections must inform the voter of the status of that voter's request for mail-in absentee ballots upon inquiry of the voter or the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian.
Amends GS 163-230.1 (was, GS 163A-1308), to require the packet that the county board of elections sends to a voter who submits a request form for an absentee application and absentee ballot, to also include a clear statement of the requirement for a photocopy of identification or an affidavit with the returned ballot. Also requires that such a statement be included in the packet given to a voter requesting an absentee ballot due to sickness or physical disability. Adds that each container-return envelope returned to the county board with application and voted ballots under the statute be accompanied by a photocopy of identification or an affidavit. Adds that the State Board must adopt rules to provide for the forms of identification that must be included with the returned application and voted ballots and sets out minimum requirements for those rules.
Amends GS 163-230.2 (was, GS 163A-1309) to require that the request form for an absentee ballot require one of the following: (1) the number of the applicant's NC drivers license; (2) the number of the applicant's special identification card for nonoperators; or (3) the last four digits of the applicant's Social Security number (was, required the identification required in accordance with State Board rules). Deletes proposed changes to subsection (f) and now requires the State Board to adopt rules for the enforcement of this statute, removing existing provisions requiring the rules to provide for the form of identification that must be included with the written request for an absentee ballot.
Adds that the State Board must issue absentee application and ballots to any voter who has submitted a valid request for absentee ballots before the effective date of this act for elections held in 2019 and 2020.
Amends GS 163-237 (was, GS 163A-1317) by adding that it is a Class G felony to steal, release, or possess the official register of absentee request for mail-in absentee ballots before the opening of the voting place, for a purpose other than the conduct of business at the county board of elections.
Requires the State Board to adopt emergency rules for the implementation of Part I. Specifies that this does not require any rule making if not otherwise required by law.
Amends GS 163-227.2 (was, GS 163A-1300) to provide that no earlier than the third Thursday before an election, in which absentee ballots are authorized, in which a voter seeks to vote and not later than 3:00 p.m. on the last Saturday (was, 2:00 p.m.) before that election, the voter must appear in person only at the office of the county board of elections. Requires a county board of elections to conduct onestop voting on the last Saturday before the election until 3:00 p.m. (was, 2:00 p.m.). Makes additional clarifying changes.
Amends GS 163-227.6 (was, GS 163A-1303) to requre that sites approved for one-stop voting be open on each week day during the required period from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (was, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.) and requires all one-stop sites to be open on the last Saturday before the election for the specified hours for that last Saturday (was, only applicable to county boards of elections that opened one-stop sites on Saturdays).
Deletes the previous provision about allowing a county board of elections to use a direct record electronic voting system and instead provides the following.
Allows the State Board of Elections to authorize a county board of elections to use a direct record electronic (DRE) voting system in any election prior to July 1, 2020, provided the State Board determines the following conditions are satisfied: (1) the county board of elections submits a hardship request to the State Board to use a DRE voting system in an election or elections prior to July 1, 2020, and provides documentation that replacement of the machines before July 1, 2020, would create an undue hardship for the county; (2) the county board of elections provides sufficient information for the State Board to conclude that the use of the DRE voting system will not jeopardize the security of the election or elections; and (3) the county board of elections has begun the process and time line for replacing the DRE voting system and provides documentation to the State Board regarding the time line for that process and specifically the time of the required testing. Expires August 1, 2020.
Makes the provisions concerning testing new voting equipment in GS 163-165.9 (was, GS 163A-1117) effective when the act becomes law (was, applicable to the purchase of any voting system tested before December 31, 2020).
No longer amends GS 163A-1303(c)(3), changing the established hours for one-stop voting sites to 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (which was to become effective January 1, 2020, and expire August 1, 2020).
No longer amends GS 163A-1310(b), concerning the transmission of absentee ballots to county boards of elections, to allow for mail or courier transmission to be at the State Board of Elections (BOE)'s expense (which was to become effective January 1, 2020, and expire December 31, 2020). Eliminates the companion appropriations provisions.
No longer amends Section 3.11 of SL 2018-13, which amended SL 2013-281 concerning decertification of certain direct record electronic (DRE) voting systems.
Adds new Part V as follows.
States that the act's appropriations are for maximum amounts necessary for services and purposes of the State Board of Elections (BOE) pursuant to the State Budget Act. Requires any savings to revert to the appropriate fund at the end of each fiscal year, except as otherwise provided by law.
Appropriates from the General Fund for the BOE budget for the 2019-21 fiscal biennium $7,989,301 and $6,878,220 for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years.
Deems state funds appropriated for each year of the 2019-21 fiscal biennium up to the specified amounts for all BOE budget codes listed in the Governor's Recommended Budget and the identified Budget Support Document, as adjusted in this act, and departmental receipts up to the amounts needed to implement the legislatively mandated salary increases and employee benefit increases provided in the act for each year of the fiscal biennium. Provides for overrealized receipts. Restricts expenditures to those legislatively authorized.
Authorizes BOE to spend, subject to the Director of the Budget's approval, grants awarded subsequent to the act that (1) are less than $2.5 million, (2) do not require State matching funds, and (3) will not be used for a capital project. Requires BOE to report receipt of these funds to the specified NCGA committee within 30 days of receipt. Prohibits any further expenditures without approval of the Director of the Budget and consultation with the specified NCGA committee. Directs the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) to work with BOE to budget grant awards as specified, including employing additional time-limited State personnel. Explicitly prohibits BOE from accepting a grant not anticipated by the act if acceptance would obligate the State to make future expenditures.
Of the funds appropriated to BOE from the General Fund, directs that $1,610,252 for the 2019-20 fiscal year and $499,171 for the 2020-21 fiscal year be allocated in specified amounts for specified purposes, including establishing user support specialist positions, implementing new voter ID requirements, adjusting the salary of a personnel position, and adjusting the base budget.
Of the funds appropriated to the BOE from the General Fund, requires reduction by $454,248 for both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years in order to eliminate a vacant position and reduce the personal services budget for positions, as specified.
Adjusts the funds appropriated to the BOE Special Fund for the modernization of the Statewide Elections Information Management System, now providing for $3 million on a nonrecurring basis in each fiscal year.
Mandates that BOE meet the required personal service reduction by eliminating positions for each year of the biennium. Requires BOE to report to the specified NCGA committees and division by December 1, 2019, and December 1, 2020, on actions taken, with the specified required content.
Requires BOE to designate one of its current full-time employee positions as Agency General Counsel upon consultation with the Office of State Human Resources and OSBM.
Reenacts and incorporates the provisions of GS Chapter 143C, the State Budget Act.
Provides for parameters and application of the BOE biennial budget provided and adjusted by the act. Establishes that the legislative budget supersedes the budget certified by the Director of the Budget in the event line-items conflict.
Repeals Sections 25.1 and 25.2 of HB 966 (Appropriations Act of 2019) if that act becomes law.
Specifies that SL 2019-209 and any other enactments affecting the State budget during the 2019 Regular Session remain effective except where expressly repealed or amended.
Defines the scope of the act to funds appropriated for and activities occurring during the 2019-21 fiscal biennium unless clearly indicated otherwise.
Clarifies the effect of the act's headings.
Includes a severability clause.
Provides that the above provisions of new Part V are effective July 1, 2019.
Enacts new GS 163-182.12A requiring the State Board to produce a report that summarizes the post-election audit, to be submitted to the specified NCGA committees within 10 business days of the date the audit is completed.
Makes conforming changes to the act's long title.