Bill Summary for S 641 (2019-2020)

Summary date: 

Apr 8 2019

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2019-2020 Session
Senate Bill 641 (Public) Filed Wednesday, April 3, 2019
AN ACT AMENDING THE NORTH CAROLINA CONSTITUTION TO ESTABLISH THE CITIZENS REDISTRICTING COMMISSION; REENACTING LEGISLATION THAT ESTABLISHED A NONPARTISAN METHOD OF ELECTING SUPREME COURT JUSTICES AND COURT OF APPEALS JUDGES BEGINNING 2020; EXTENDING THE WAITING PERIOD FOR FORMER LEGISLATORS WHO BECOME LOBBYISTS; MODERNIZING THE VOTER REGISTRATION PROCESS BY ESTABLISHING THE FAIR ELECTIONS PROGRAM; INCREASING TRANSPARENCY IN THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS BY REQUIRING FORTY-EIGHT HOURS NOTICE OF MEETINGS OF ALL LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEES; AND DIRECTING THE LEGISLATIVE SERVICES OFFICER TO DEVELOP A PLAN TO PROVIDE LIVE VIDEO AND AUDIO STREAMING OF ALL MEETINGS OF LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEES AND COMMISSIONS MEETING IN THE LEGISLATIVE COMPLEX.
Intro. by J. Jackson, Foushee, deViere.

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Bill summary

Identical to H 574, filed 4/3/19.

Includes whereas clauses.

Part I.

Subject to approval by voters at the primary election in March 2020, makes the following changes to Article II of the NC Constitution. 

Adds new Sec. 25 establishing the 15-member Citizens Redistricting Commission (Redistricting Commission) that will prepare and adopt plans for revisiting the districts and apportioning the members of districts for the House of Representatives of the US Congress and the Senate and House of Representatives of the General Assembly. Requires that plans be adopted by a vote of at least three members form each of the following: (1) the members affiliated with the political party having the highest number of registered affiliates; (2) the members affiliated with the political partying having the second highest number of registered affiliates; and (3) the members not affiliated with either of the two political parties having the highest number of registered affiliates. Sets out requirements for appointing members to the Redistricting Commission, which must consist of four persons affiliated with the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates and four affiliated with the political party with the second-highest number of affiliates, appointed by the specified NCGA leaders, and an additional five persons not affiliated with either of the two parties with the highest and second-highest number of registered affiliates, one person affiliated with the political party with the highest number of registered affiliates, and one person affiliated with the party with the second-highest number of registered affiliates, all selected by the six members who were appointed by legislative leadership. Term of office is four years. Prohibits the following from serving on the Redistricting Commission: (1) an individual, or their relative, who has been appointed to, elected to, or been a candidate for any elective public office; been appointed to a State board or commission; has served as an officer or executive committee member of a political party, or as an officer, paid employee, or paid consultant of a candidate's campaign committee, or has been a registered lobbyist; (2) an individual who is or has ever been an employee of the General Assembly or Congress, or is or has ever been a consultant or under contract with those entities; (3) an individual who has ever had a financial relationship with the Governor; or (4) an individual who has ever contributed more than $1,000 to any candidate for public office. Prohibits members of the Redistricting Commission, while serving, or within five years after service, from being appointed to a state board or commission; serving as an officer or executive committee member of a political party; or as an officer, paid employee, or paid consultant of a candidate's campaign committee; or registering as a lobbyist. Requires the Redistricting Commission, as soon as practicable after the return of the decennial census, to appoint a special master who will draw a final plan that the Redistricting Commission must adopt in the event that the Redistricting Commission is unable to adopt a plan. Requires dismissing members if they are unable to adopt a plan and select a special master. 

The above provisions are effective January 1, 2020.

Makes conforming changes to Section 3 and Section 5, regarding the election of senators and representatives, and amends the requirements for districts to now require that they meet the following goals: (1) one person, one vote; (2) minimizing the number of split counties, municipalities, and other communities of interest; and (3) compactness. Effective beginning with the redistricting done upon the return of the 2020 decennial census.

If the constitutional amendments are approved, then effective January 1, 2020, enacts Article 1B, Redistricting, in GS Chapter 120, which provides as follows. Sets out definitions for terms used in the Article. Specifies the duties of the Redistricting Commission, which in addition to those discussed in the constitutional amendment above, include maintaining meeting notes, plans, and data used to develop the plans, and maintaining a website to disseminate information about the Redistricting Commission, which must allow the public to view meetings and hearings and submit plans and comments. Requires the position of chair to rotate every two months and sets out additional requirements for the rotation. Sets out requirements for staffing. Sets out requirements for recording information submitted to the Redistricting Commission, and requires adopting a procedure for members to document verbal conversations between members and individuals holding public office or declared candidates for public office, that includes a least the specified information.

Sets out redistricting standards related to district populations, district boundaries, contiguous territories, and compactness. Prohibits (1) drawing a district for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other person or group; (2) drawing a district for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a language or racial minority group; (3) making any use of political affiliations of registered voters; previous election results; demographic information, other than population head counts; or the location of incumbents' residences.

Sets out steps the Redistricting Commission must take in preparation for redistricting, including holding at least 21 public hearings throughout the state.

Sets out the process for adopting the legislative and congressional district plans, as discussed above in the constitutional changes, with plans to be adopted by April 1 of each year ending in one. Provides that if an adopted plan is held invalid, then a new district plan is to be adopted under the same process, modified as necessary to reflect the timing and nature of the holding. 

Makes a conforming repeal of GS 120-133, which concerned the confidentiality of redistricting communications with legislative employees. 

Part II.

Enacts new Article 28 to GS Chapter 163A, Nomination and Election of Appellate Justices and Judges, providing the following. 

New GS 163A-1700 provides for the applicability of Article 28 to the nomination and election of justices of the Supreme Court and judges of the Court of Appeals (hereafter, justices and judges).

New GS 163A-1701 provides for a nonpartisan primary election method for the nomination of justices and judges when there are more than two candidates for a single office or the number of candidates for a group of offices exceeds twice the number of positions to be filled when the filing period closes. Provides for the canvass of the primary and determination of nominations in the primary and election winners. 

New GS 163A-1702 provides for the form for notice of candidacy, the withdrawal of candidacy, and the certification of the candidate as a registered voter. Requires justices and judges to file their notices of candidacy with the State Board no earlier than noon on the second Monday in February and no later than noon on the last business day in February preceding the election. Prohibits any person from filing a notice of candidacy for more than one office or group of offices governed by Article 28 or GS 163A-974, including Governor, Lieutenant Governor, all State executive officers, superior and district court judges, US Congress members, and district attorneys. Requires designation of candidacy at the time of filing when there are two or more vacancies for the office of justice or judge.

New GS 163A-1703 establishes a filing fee of 1% of the annual salary of the office sought. Provides for fee refunds for the withdrawal of candidacy or upon death of the candidate, as specified.

New GS 163A-1704 provides for the filing of a written petition in lieu of payment of the filing fee, as specified.

New GS 163A-1705 provides for the certification of notices of candidacy by the State Board and subsequent notification of local boards of elections.

New GS 163A-1706 authorizes the State Board to extend the filing period for five days for any offices for which candidates have not filed that are to be filled under Article 28. Details the process to be followed when a candidate is disqualified or dies before the primary, a candidate is alive and fails to withdraw after close of filing, or a candidate dies, is qualified, or fails to qualify after the person is elected. 

New GS 163A-1707 provides for elections to fill a vacancy in an office that is created after the primary filing period opens but more than 60 days before the general election. Provides that the State Board must designate a special filing period of one week for candidates for that office. Provides for a second primary election if two or more qualified candidates file and the vacancy occurs more than 63 days before the date of the second primary for members of the General Assembly, and a general election if two or more qualified candidates file and the vacancy occurs more than 64 days before the date of the second primary which must be held on the same day as the general election for members of the General Assembly. 

New GS 163A-1708 permits any person who will become qualified by age or residence to register to vote in the general election for which the primary is held, even though not so qualified by the date of the primary, to register for the primary and general election prior to the primary and then to vote in the primary after being registered. Prohibits such persons from registering earlier than 60 days nor later than the last day for making application to register for primary elections pursuant to GS 163A-865(d) prior to the primary. 

New GS 163A-1709 sets the primary date for the same date as established for primary elections under GS 163A-700(b), which provides for primaries to be on the Tuesday next after the first Monday in May preceding each general election to be held in November.

New GS 163A-1710 provides for the form of official ballots. Requires official ballots to be printed by the county board of elections, as specified. Provides requirements for the distribution of official ballots.

New GS 163A-1711 provides for counting ballots in primaries and elections to be in the same manner for nonpartisan municipal elections under Part 2 of Article 27 of GS Chapter 163A.

New GS 163A-1712 establishes that the conduct of elections are governed by Article 20 of GS Chapter 163A (Conduct of Primaries and Elections), except as provided by Article 28.

Makes conforming changes to GS 18C-112(e)(1), GS 163A-700(b), GS 163A-743, GS 163A-873, GS 163A-974(a), GS 163A-975, GS 163A-979(a), GS 163A-980(b), GS 163A-984(c)(1), and makes a technical change to GS 163A-1114.

Amends GS 163A-1005 to exempt elections under new Article 28 of GS Chapter 163A from the provisions for unaffiliated candidates nominated by petition. Amends GS 163A-1006 to exempt nonpartisan elections, except for elections under new Article 28 of GS Chapter 163A, from the statute's provisions concerning declaration of intent and petitions for write-in candidates in partisan elections.

Effective January 1, 2020, and applies to elections held on or after that date.

Part III.

Amends GS 163A-308, extending the amount of time that a former legislator must wait before registering as a lobbyist to two years. Previously the waiting period was either the close of session or six months after leaving office, whichever was later. Extends the amount of time a public servant or former public servant must wait before registering as a lobbyist to two years after leaving office or end of employment (was, six months). Extends the amount of time an employee of any State agency must wait before registering to lobby the State agency that previously employed them to two years (was, six months). 

Effective October 1, 2019.

Part IV.

Amends GS 163A-864 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 163A-864.1 allowing an individual to register to vote or change voter registration online if the individual: (1) is eligible to register to vote and (2) possess 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 163A-871 to add specified identifying information submitted during the online voter registration application process to the information that is confidential.

Effective December 1, 2019.

Part V.

Amends GS 163A-862 and GS 163A-865 authorizing county boards of elections to accept automatic voter registration.

Amends GS 163A-883 to require, beginning January 1, 2020, 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.

The above provisions are effective January 1, 2020.

Amends GS 163A-884 to require, beginning January 1, 2021, 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 163A-883, as amended. Does not require an agency to provide automatic voter registration to a person with disability at the person's home. Requires electronic transmittal of applications to the appropriate board of elections.

Amends GS 163A-885 to authorize automatic voter registration at the time of restoration of citizenship, effective January 1, 2020. Further amends the statute to authorize online voter registration at the time of restoration of citizenship, effective January 1, 2021.

Amends GS 115D-5 and GS 116-11 to require, beginning January 1, 2021, the State Board of Community Colleges and the UNC Board of Governors, in consultation with the State Board of Elections, to provide each person enrolled and registering for courses as a student at a State community college or a State college or university in the UNC System the option for automatic voter registration. Specifies certain procedural requirements substantially similar to those provided for in GS 163A-883 and GS 163A-844, as amended. Provides that applications to register accepted by a State community college or constituent institution of UNC entitles a registrant to vote in any primary, general or special election unless the registrant made application later than the 25th calendar day immediately preceding the election; permits continuing acceptance of applications during that period.

The above provisions are effective January 1, 2021.

Requires the State Board of Elections to develop education and outreach programs to inform voters of automatic registration procedures established by the act.

Part VI.

Adds new Part 4, Fair Elections Program, to Article 23 of GS Chapter 163A.

Establishes the Fair Elections Fund (Fund) as a separate, nonreverting account in the General Fund, administered by the State Treasurer. Requires investment earnings credited to the assets of the Fund to become part of the assets of the Fund.

Establishes the Fair Elections Program (Program) under which the candidate campaign committee of a candidate for nomination or election to office in this state may receive a grant from the Fund for the candidate's primary campaign or general election campaign. The Part defines primary campaign as the period beginning on the day following the close of the filing period under GS 163A-974 and ending on the day of a primary held for the purpose of nominating a candidate for such office. General election campaign is defined as, in the case of a candidate nominated at a primary, the period beginning on the day following the primary and ending on the date the treasurer files the final statement for the campaign or, in the case of a candidate nominated without a primary, the period beginning on the day following the day on which the candidate is nominated and ending on the date the treasurer files the final statement for the campaign.

Provides that a candidate campaign committee is eligible to receive grants for a primary campaign and a general election campaign if each of the five specified conditions are met, including that the candidate agrees to limit the campaign expenditures of the candidate’s candidate campaign committee in accordance with new GS 163A-1510.3(c). Under (c), a candidate in the Program is required to limit the expenditures of the candidate’s candidate campaign committee before a primary campaign and a general election campaign to the amount of qualifying contributions allowed under Part 4 and any personal funds provided by the candidate. For a primary, campaign expenditures are limited to the sum of (1) the amount of qualifying contributions and personal funds that have not been spent before the primary campaign and (2) the amount of the grant for the primary campaign. For a general election campaign, limits expenditures to the sum of (1) the amount of qualifying contributions and personal funds that have not been spent before the general election campaign, (2) any unexpended funds from any grant for a primary campaign, and (3) the amount of the grant for the general election campaign.

Requires each candidate for nomination or election to State executive office or State legislative office in the state to file an affidavit with the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement (State Board) certifying in writing whether or not the candidate intends to abide by the expenditure limits. If the candidate intends to abide by the limits, the affidavit must also include additional specified written certifications concerning funding from the Fund. Sets out further requirements for filing the affidavit. Provides that a candidate who does not intend to participate in the Program and certifies as such is not required to file the affidavit. Candidates who do not file the affidavit as well as those who certify their intent not to abide by the limits are referred to as nonparticipating candidates and those who certify the candidate’s intent to abide by the expenditure limits are referred to as participating candidates. Requires the State Board to prepare a list of participating and nonparticipating candidates, which is to be available for public inspection.

Provides a procedure under which a participating candidate may withdraw from the Program.

Sets out the amount of qualifying contributions the candidate campaign committee of a candidate is required to receive in order to be eligible for grants from the Fund with the required amount set according to the office being sought. Sets out the following additional requirements applicable to candidates making qualifying contributions: (1) the candidate campaign committee must return the portion of any contribution from any individual, including the candidate, that exceeds $100 and any excess portion is not considered in calculating the aggregate contribution amounts; (2) regarding contributions from individuals residing in municipalities in the candidate's district (for candidates for State Senator or Representative), no contribution will be counted unless the contribution is at least $5; (3) all contributions received by an exploratory committee established by the candidate that meet the criteria for qualifying contributions to candidate campaign committees must be considered in calculating the aggregate amounts.

Requires each individual contributing more than $50 to a candidate campaign committee established to aid or promote the success of a participating candidate for nomination or election to also include a certification containing the same information required by GS 163A-1422(a)(1). Sets out three types of contributions that are not deemed to be qualifying contributions that must be returned to the contributor or transmitted to the State Board to be deposited in the Fund. Requires that any additional contributions received after a candidate campaign committee receives the applicable aggregate amount of qualifying contributions to be transmitted to the State Treasurer to be deposited in the Fund.

Sets the grant amounts from the Fund as follows: (1) for candidates for Governor, $1.25 million for a primary and $10 million for a general election; (2) for candidates for State executive office other than Governor, $375,000 for a primary and $1 million for a general election; (3) for candidates for State Senator, $35,000 for a primary and $85,000 for a general election; (4) for candidate for State Representative, $14,000 for a primary and $34,000 for a general election. Sets out additional provisions governing the grant amount in the case of special elections, failure to expend the entire grant for the primary campaign, and lack of opponent in the general election. Sets out amounts of grant funds available to third-party candidate and petitioning candidates.

Sets out the process for applying for a grant from the Fund.

Prohibits depositing any contribution, loan, or the candidate's own moneys or any other moneys received by the candidate or the treasurer on behalf of the candidate campaign committee into the depository account after the initial deposit of moneys from the Fund into the qualified candidate campaign committee’s depository account.

Provides that a qualified candidate campaign committee that received moneys from the Fund for a primary campaign and whose candidate is the party nominee will receive a grant for a general election campaign; sets out the process and timing of that payment.

Allows the candidate campaign committee for a candidate intending to participate in the Program to borrow moneys on behalf of a campaign for a primary or a general election in an aggregate amount not to exceed $1,000. Prohibits an individual or political committee, except the candidate or, in a general election, the State executive committee of a political party, from endorsing or guaranteeing a loan in an aggregate amount in excess of $500. Requires all loans to be repaid in full before the date the candidate campaign committee applies for a grant; a candidate who fails to repay any loans or to certify the repayment of any loans to the State Board will not receive grants from the Fund. Allows candidates intending to participate in the Program to provide personal funds for the candidate's campaign for nomination or election, not to exceed the following: (1) for a candidate for Governor, $20,000; (2) for a candidate for State executive office other than the Governor, $10,000; (3) for a candidate for State Senator, $2,000; and (4) for a candidate for State Representative, $1,000.

Sets out penalties and repayment when an expenditure is made or incurred in excess of applicable expenditure limits by a qualified candidate campaign committee that received a grant.

Sets out procedures for filing required weekly supplemental campaign finance statements, and filing a declaration of excess expenditures when a participating candidate campaign committee makes expenditures or incurs an obligation to make expenditures that exceeds 100% of the applicable expenditure limits. Sets out penalties for failure to file the required statement or declaration.

Requires the State Board to give each participating candidate a copy of the voter registration list for the state or applicable district.

Prohibits a local committee, legislative caucus committee, or legislative leadership committee from making an organization expenditure for the benefit of a participating candidate or the candidate campaign committee of a participating candidate for the office of State Senator in an amount exceeding $10,000 for a general election campaign or for the office of State Representative in an amount exceeding $3,500 for a general election campaign; prohibits making an organization expenditure for State legislative office for a primary campaign.

Requires the State Board to compile and analyze the five categories of information and report its analysis biennially, along with any recommendations for adjustments to the grant amounts, to the Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee.

Allows any person, business entity, organization, or political committee to contribute to the Fund.

Effective December 1, 2019, and applies to election grants sought on or after that date.

Part VII.

Amends GS 143-318.14A to specify that reasonable public notice (might intend to require adequate public notice, as defined below) of all commission, committee, and standing subcommittee meetings must be given to all General Assembly members; members of the commission, committee, or subcommittee; and to the Legislative Services Office (was, only that reasonable public notice must be given without specifying the recipient of the notice). Requires that the notice be posted on General Assembly’s website by the Legislative Services Office.  Defines adequate public notice as written or electronic notice that is posted and mailed or e-mailed to those who requested notice at least 48 hours before the time of the meeting.  Requires that the notice include the time, date, location, and to the extent known, the agenda of the meeting. Requires that the agenda for a noticed meeting be readily available for public inspection no less than 24 hours in advance of the time of the meeting and prohibits changing the agenda except for items of an emergency nature, after the notice has been made available to the public. Requires that commission, committee, or standing subcommittee members receive the text of all bills, proposed committee substitutes, and amendments that will be considered during the scheduled meeting no later than 24 hours in advance of the meeting. Prohibits considering or acting on a bill, proposed committee substitute, or amendment that has not been made available to the members as required.

Requires the Legislative Services Office to develop a plan to install equipment providing live video and audio in both chamber and all committee rooms. The plan must be submitted to the chairs of the Legislative Services Commission and the chairs of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on General Government by April 1, 2020.

© 2020 School of Government The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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