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NCEIT Press Conference Video and Press Coverage of Amendment for Only Citizens Voting

Updated: May 7





Press Conference Video: The NORTH CAROLINA ELECTION INTEGRITY TEAM'S Press Conference in Raleigh on Wedneday, April 24th, 2024 at the Legislature https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/FMfcgzGxStsrcJpBJxHSLmFFdWVtbZld?projector=1


NC Republicans want citizens-only voting amendment. Would it change anything? 

BY KYLE INGRAM APRIL 23, 2024 2:26 PM Raleign News and Observer


A constitutional amendment stating that only citizens can vote may be on the ballot in November as advocates for stricter rules in North Carolina elections lobby Republican lawmakers. 


Sen. Brad Overcash, a Gaston County Republican, told The News & Observer on Tuesday he would sponsor the effort to amend the state constitution, saying it would give voters an opportunity to make it “crystal clear” that only citizens can vote. 


It is already a crime for noncitizens to vote in federal elections, and state law requires residents to be citizens to register to vote. 


Advocates say the amendment would clear up ambiguity in the constitution, but critics — and even a group pushing for the change — see it as a way to drive conservatives to the polls. 

WHO IS PUSHING FOR MORE ELECTION CHANGES? 


The amendment is one of several measures being pushed for by a group of advocates who describe their mission as election integrity. The group has ties to Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who assisted former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. 


In audio obtained by The News & Observer of meetings of the North Carolina Election Integrity Team, leaders of the group laid out their legislative priorities for the upcoming session, including reducing the early voting period, tightening voter ID rules and attempting to entirely eliminate same-day registration.


Republicans already passed sweeping election changes last year, including eliminating the three-day grace period for receiving absentee ballots, empowering partisan poll observers and attempting to restructure state and local election boards. 


These bills were introduced last summer after top lawmakers met with Mitchell to discuss her push for stricter election laws. 


Most of these changes are currently being battled out in court, with some on hold after trial courts struck them down. 


DOES THE AMENDMENT HAVE A CHANCE OF PASSING? 

In several meetings, leaders of the NCEIT appeared most hopeful about passing a citizens-only voting amendment to the state constitution. 


“Phil Berger and Tim Moore have both said they favor moving that bill this session,” Jim Womack, the president of NCEIT, said in an April 16 meeting. “That’s the only bill that both of them have agreed that ought to move. So I’ve had very high hopes.” 


Senate leader Phil Berger’s and House Speaker Tim Moore’s offices did not respond to requests for comment about whether they supported the legislation.


In the meeting, Womack added that he thought legislative leaders would want it to pass “simply because it’ll bring conservatives to the polls.” 


Womack is also the chair of the Lee County GOP and ran unsuccessfully for chair of the state Republican Party earlier this year. 


His group plans to hold a press conference Wednesday in support of the amendment. 

Overcash said he had not spoken with anybody from the NCEIT about the amendment. 

He sponsored a bill to send a citizens-only voting amendment to voters last year, but it never made it to a vote in the legislature. 


In order to pass an amendment to the state constitution, three-fifths of lawmakers must first approve the proposal in each chamber of the General Assembly. Then, the amendment is placed on the ballot in the next election and decided on by voters. 


WHAT DOES THE CONSTITUTION SAY ABOUT WHO CAN VOTE? 

Though it is already a crime for noncitizens to vote, proponents of the amendment say the current language in the North Carolina Constitution doesn’t go far enough. 


The constitution states that “every person born in the United States and every person who has been naturalized…shall be entitled to vote.”


It does not specifically state who cannot vote, an omission Andy Jackson, director of the conservative Civitas Center for Public Integrity, said should be fixed. 


“This is a fundamental question about how we run our Republic – who can vote and who can’t vote – I think that deserves to be in the Constitution,” he said. 


Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC, a government watchdog group, said the passage of a citizens-only voting amendment would have no tangible impact. 

“I can’t help but look at something like that and see it as just a vehicle to drive base voters,” he said. 

U.S. law makes it a crime for noncitizens to vote in federal elections. 


Overcash and other proponents of the amendment, however, have pointed to municipalities in other states that have allowed noncitizens to vote in local elections, such as school board races.

State law prevents municipalities in North Carolina from enacting similar changes to voter eligibility. A constitutional amendment codifying that law would help shield it from potential litigation, Overcash said. 


GROUP ALSO TARGETING EARLY VOTING, SAME-DAY REGISTRATION 


In meetings over the past two months, members of the NCEIT discussed further election law changes but appeared less optimistic about getting some of them through the Senate. 

The group frequently discussed shortening the in-person early voting period, which currently begins on the third Thursday before an election and ends on the last Saturday before an election. 

House Speaker Tim Moore has expressed support for reducing the early voting period in the past, telling reporters in February that “I like early voting. I like making it easier to vote, but I think it’s just too long at three weeks. It adds a lot of costs.” 


However, Womack told the group that the chairs of the Senate Elections Committee “have basically stated that there’s not much interest in doing anything on the Senate side this year.” Sen. Paul Newton, one of the committee chairs, did not respond to a request for comment. 

In a meeting on April 9, Womack said one of the group’s priorities is eliminating same-day registration. Voters in North Carolina can register while voting in-person during the early voting period. Absent action from the legislature, he said Mitchell was interested in filing a lawsuit targeting the practice.


“If the General Assembly does not want to stop it through statutory means, then we need to go through the lawfare channel,” Womack said. The legislative session begins on Wednesday.



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