RALEIGH — A bill covering absentee ballots, voter ID and the flow of private money to both county and state election boards has been filed at the General Assembly.
Senate Bill 326, titled the Election Integrity Act, seeks to prohibit county boards of election and the state board of election from accepting private donations in order to administer elections or to employ individuals on a temporary basis.
The primary sponsors of the bill are the co-chairs of the Senate Redistricting Committee: Sens. Warren Daniel (R-Caldwell), Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus) and Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell).
“Everyone’s aware now of the millions of dollars that came in to North Carolina from partisan groups and was funneled into boards of elections,” said Daniel. “We think that creates a conflict interest. Any money that’s funding our boards of election should come through government revenues.”
The bill sets aside $5 million from the General Fund to establish a program to identify voters who need to obtain a photo ID and to help them obtain one.
“If there’s anybody left in North Carolina that doesn’t have an ID at this point — which I’ve never heard a single constituent tell me — we’re going to make sure that there’s a mobile unit that shows up at their house and provides one,” said Daniel.
The bill also seeks to amend dates for voters requesting an absentee ballot and the return dates for those ballots. The date to receive request for absentee ballots is currently the Tuesday immediately prior to Election Day. Senate Bill 326 would move the deadline to 5 p.m. on the second Tuesday before the election. For acceptance of absentee ballots, the bill states that ballots must be “received by the county board not later than 5:00 p.m. on the day of the statewide primary or general election or county bond election.” Current statute allows for acceptance of absentee ballots postmarked on or before the date of a primary or general election no later than three days after the election by 5 p.m.
“The bill itself is part of our ongoing effort to refine the [election] process, make it more secure and increase election integrity,” said Daniel, noting the 2020 “collusive settlement agreement” between N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein, State Board of Elections executive director Karen Brinson Bell and Democrat go-to lawyer Marc Elias of the D.C.-based Perkins Coie law firm.