Bill Summary for S 683 (2019-2020)

Summary date: 

Aug 26 2019

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2019-2020 Session
Senate Bill 683 (Public) Filed Friday, June 28, 2019
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.
Intro. by Daniel, McKissick, Hise.

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Bill summary

House committee substitute to the 4th edition makes the following changes.

Amends GS 163A-1306 to deem each register of absentee requests (mail-in and one-stop) to constitute public record, and can be opened 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 any other time when good and sufficient reason warrants inspection (previously, limited the scope of these parameters to the one-stop absentee ballot register required under new subsection (b), and deemed the mail-in absentee ballot request register required of subsection (a), as amended, confidential until the opening of the voting place, at which time the register is public record). Eliminates proposed subsection (e), which required the State Board of Elections (State Board) or the county board of elections to inform the voter of the status of that voter's request for a mail-in absentee ballot upon inquiry by the voter or the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian.

Makes organizational and clarifying changes to GS 163A-871. Further amends the statute, which deems confidential specified personal identifying information, modifying the scope of the provisions to now include any email address submitted under the Article or Article 21 of GS Chapter 163A (was, more specifically Part 2 of Article 21), photocopies of identification for voting (previously not included), and driver's license numbers held by the State Board or a county board (previously, deemed the personally identifying information confidential as generated by the voter, the State Board, or a county board in the mail-in absentee ballot process). Specifies that voter signatures can be viewed by the public, whether held by the State Board or a county board.

Makes organizational and clarifying changes to GS 163A-1308, concerning absentee ballot requests and issuance. Changes the statutory cross-reference regarding voter eligibility to vote by absentee ballot, now referencing GS 163A-1295 rather than GS 163A-1295(a). Makes language gender-neutral. Recodifies subsection (h), which defines near relative, as GS 163A-1295(f).

Amends GS 163A-1309, setting forth the method for requesting absentee ballots, to require the State Board to make the written request form available at its office, online, and in each county board of elections (previously, excluded online availability), and permits reproduction of the form (previously, no longer permitted). No longer permits the voter to request the form in person or in writing. Modifies the required content of the form to include a clear indicator of the date the election generating the request is to be held, except for annual calendar year requests pursuant to GS 163A-1295 for individuals with sickness or physical disability (previously, required indication of the calendar year in which the election or elections generating the request are to be held, and did not provide for this exception). No longer requires the form to include the name of any individual or group assisting the voter with obtaining or completing the form, or a unique identifier for the voter. Now allows a member of a multipartisan team trained and authorized by the county board to return the completed request form (previously, limited to the voter or the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian). Adds to the reasons for which a request for an absentee ballot is not valid and will not be issued an application and ballot, including (1) the completed written request is not on a form created by the State Board; (2) the completed written request is completed or signed by anyone other than the voter or the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian (with assistance permitted by a member of a multipartisan team trained and authorized by the county board); (3) the written request does not contain all of the required information; and (4) the completed written request is returned to the county by someone other than than the voter, the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian, a member of a multipartisan team trained and authorized, the US Postal Service, or a designated delivery service. Adds to the required content of the State Board's enforcement rules, now requiring a voter affidavit stating a reasonable impediment as an inability to attach a physical copy of the voter's identification with the written request to include either (1) the number of the voter's NC driver's license, (2) the number of the voter's special identification card, or (3) the last four digits of the applicant's Social Security number. Makes further technical and conforming changes.

Amends GS 163A-1295(b) to allow a voter that reports a sickness or physical disability that is expected to last the remainder of the calendar year to request to vote by mail-in absentee ballot for all primaries and elections held during the calendar year when the completed written request under GS 163A-1308, as amended, is received (previously, allowed the applicant to report and request on the application an absentee ballot, and did not cross-reference GS 163A-1308 nor specify the request be for mail-in absentee ballots).

Changes the State Board's reporting requirement. Now requires the State Board to report to the specified NCGA committee and the General Assembly by May 1, 2020, on its plans to implement Section 2 and 3 of the act and any necessary statutory changes (concerning the proposed changes to GS 163A-1308, GS 163A-1309, and GS 163A-1295; previously, limited to proposed GS 163A-1309(a)(9), now deleted, concerning including unique voter identifiers on request forms).

Amends GS 20-30 to allow making a color copy of a driver's license, learner's permit, or special ID card in order to comply with GS 163A-1307 (method of requesting absentee ballots).

Amends GS 163A-1317, making it a Class 1 misdemeanor to sell, attempt to sell, purchase, or agree to purchase a completed written request, a completed application for absentee ballots, or voted absentee ballots (was, limited to completed applications and ballots). Requires a person who intentionally fails to deliver or destroys a completed request for, an application for, or a voter absentee ballot to have the intent of obstructing a vote by a registered voter to be guilty of a Class G felony. Eliminates the proposed Class G felony for stealing, releasing, or possessing the official register of absentee requests for mail-in ballots prior to the permitted time for a purpose other than the conduct of county board business.

Amends GS 163A-1300, as amended, 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 2:00 p.m. on the last Saturday before the election (was, no later than 1:00 p.m. on the last Saturday). Changes the proposed explicit requirement for county boards to conduct one-stop voting on the last Saturday before the election, now requiring one-stop voting from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. (was, from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.). No longer permits a county board to continue until 5:00 p.m. on that last Saturday.

Eliminates the proposed changes to GS 163A-1303, regarding the sites and hours for one-stop voting. Instead, amends the statute to require the State Board to consider, in determining whether to approve a county's Plan for Implementation, whether the Plan disproportionately favors any party, racial or ethnic group, or candidate. Adds identical language regarding approval of a Plan that includes a one-stop site in a building the county board is not entitled to demand and use as an election-day voting place, now requiring the State Board to find that the sites chosen will not disproportionately favor any party, racial or ethnic group, or candidate (previously, required finding the sites chosen do not unfairly advantage or disadvantage geographic, demographic, or partisan interests of that county). Excepts from the requirement for county-wide uniformity of one-stop sites on Saturdays the last Saturday before the election.

Effective January 1, 2020, amends GS 163A-1303 to limit required one-stop site hours to 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (was, 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.). Sunsets this provision on August 1, 2020.

Makes organizational and clarifying changes to GS 163A-1310, regarding transmission of executed absentee ballots to county boards. Also, removes language specifying that transmission by mail or commercial courier is at the voter's expense. Appropriates $250,000 from the unappropriated fund balance of the General Fund to the State Board for the 2019-20 fiscal year to provide for pre-paid postage for mail-in absentee ballots. Effective January 1, 2020, and expires December 31, 2020.

Amends Section 3.11 of SL 2018-13, which modifies Sections 30.8 and 30.9 of SL 2013-281. Makes technical corrections to refer instead to SL 2013-381, which requires the decertification of certified direct record electronic (DRE) voting systems that do not use paper ballots and prohibits their use in any election held on or after December 1, 2019. Makes other technical changes.

Allows the State Board to authorize a county board of elections to use a direct record electronic (DRE) voting system in any election prior to December 1, 2020, so long as the county board, by December 1, 2020, submits a request to the State Board, provides sufficient information for the State Board to conclude the use will not jeopardize election security, and has begun the process and timeline for replacing the DRE voting system and provided the State Board documentation of the timeline and required testing. Specifically authorizes the State Board to grant an exception to any requirement of GS 163A-1117(a), which requires system recommendation, demonstrations, and testing, that the State Board deems appropriate for that county. Effective when the act becomes law and expires January 1, 2021.

Maintains the act's effective date provisions and changes the act's long title.

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