From Jim Womack, NCEIT
This bill was PCS'd (Proposed Committee Substitute) in committee today (4/3/23) and forwarded to Rules. It is moving forward and likely will get its second and third passing votes in the next day or so, then will pass on to the Senate.
Three of us on the NCEIT Team were present today to speak about H304 during public comments before the Committee, but we were denied the opportunity to speak. None of the House Members on the Elections Committee were willing to adopt our small number of recommendations to make the bill better. As it stands, the bill prohibits drop boxes (which weren't authorized anyway), cuts off receipt of all mail-in ballots at 7:30PM on Election Day, and requires a little more statistical reporting on absentee and provisional ballots by the State Board. It fails to authorize access to or inspection of ballot envelopes by poll observers (at any time during the election) and it fails to extend the window for mail-in ballot challenges until the day before canvass (meaning it will be nearly impossible to research or challenge Absentee by Mail voters before the election is certified. We failed to get these two important changes into the bill, which would have been game changers for Election Integrity.
I am very disappointed. We gave it the very best effort we could muster. Several of us repeatedly spoke with and provided documentation to members of the Elections Working Group, with bill sponsor Ted Davis, with Elections Committee members and even with the Speaker and his advisory staff about these matters. I have continued to seek a meeting with Elections Committee Chair Grey Mills, who promised a meeting but has avoided me and the NCEIT team for weeks. I spoke with General Counsel Sam Hayes after the Committee Hearing and he basically told me there wasn't sufficient concern to pass the provisions we proposed. He encouraged us to keep trying to get these provisions passed in other bills, but frankly, there is little chance the House Elections Committee will revisit the same statutory provisions in yet another bill this session.
Our Plan "B" on this particular bill is to modify it in the Senate. We believe we can get access to the three Senate Election Committee co-Chairs and convince them of the additional two provisions the state needs to tighten up in absentee by mail processes- where the vast majority of abuses are known to occur. I will let you addressees know if there is anything you can do to help.
On the upside- looks as if ERIC is just about dead in NC. The draft Appropriations Bill successfully rescinds funding for ERIC that was authorized last year, and there is another draft statutory change (House Bill 396) that prohibits participating with ERIC, by name, regardless of funding source. Although it falls short of prohibiting the sharing of confidential citizen data with any non-governmental agency, it at least calls out the ERIC prohibition.
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