If we learned nothing else from the much-too-short hearing on alleged absentee ballot fraud in Bladen County during the 2018 election, it is that North Carolina desperately needs to combat absentee ballot harvesting.
After several months of seeing proposed election reforms that were half-measures, largely useless, or that would make ballot harvesting worse, legislators finally filed a meaningful reform proposal in June. The bill, SB 683, unanimously passed the Senate but has languished in the House Rules Committee for over a month. However, it appears that a version of the bill will soon come up for a vote and advance for a vote in the full House.
I have already written a summary of the bill, so I will briefly state here a few of the major differences between version that was proposed in the Senate and the version of the bill being considered in the House:
- In the original version, standard absentee ballot request forms signed by the voter were eliminated in favor of request letters written by the voter. The current version brings back forms, but requires that the year of the election be clearly indicated. This prevents ballot harvesters from making copies of absentee ballot requests for their targets year after year.
- The new form would have “A unique identifier, applicable only to the voter completing that written request form.” However, the bill does not specify what that identifier is.
- It is made a felony for any election official to release the register of absentee ballot requests before Election Day. (The bill also makes absentee ballot requests confidential until the voters casts a ballot, although the new version also includes a provision for a public lists of applications as a back door to make that information publicly available.)
Rep. David Lewis has also released a proposed committee substitute for the bill that would include requiring voters who cannot make a copy of their ID to provide either their NC driver’s license or the last four digits of their Social Security number with their absentee ballot request.
While not perfect, SB 683 is a good bill that addresses a major problem.