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NC House Democrats introduce legislation to improve election integrity, access

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DTH Photo Illustration. The Freedom to Vote bill attempts to cover voting access from multiple angles, such as the expansion of early voting hours and the redrawing of congressional district maps. 

House Bill 293, the Freedom to Vote Act, proposes changes to election administration in the state and provisions to increase voter turnout.

N.C. Rep. Allen Buansi (D-Orange) is the face and primary sponsor of the bill, which was supported by every Democrat in the N.C. House of Representatives.

“Foundationally, we want to preserve our democracy, and what we've laid out in this bill would all go towards that in the face of the attacks that we've seen over the past few years,” Buansi said.

The bill includes funding for the N.C. State Board of Elections, voter roll list maintenance changes and penalties for voter intimidation, as well as provisions that would implement online voter registration and expand weekend early voting hours.

The bill would also commission a study from the UNC School of Government on the creation of nonpartisan district maps for the N.C. Senate, N.C. House and U.S. House of Representatives.

Bob Phillips is the executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to the protection of democracy. Phillips said the most important aspect of the bill is the funding for the NCSBE.

“We have to make sure that the state and the county boards of elections have the resources they need to provide those secure elections,” he said.

Phillips also said citizens, ideally, should have confidence in the election system.

The bill adjusts the process of voter list maintenance, an area of contention in recent years. For instances of death, the bill requires that officials match the date of death and the last four digits of the deceased's Social Security number to the registration record.

Melissa Price Kromm, the director of N.C. Voters for Clean Elections, said there has been an increase in legislation aimed at creating more barriers to voting in the state.

“I see those as incredibly dangerous for our democracy when we see people spreading those myths and those lies to create more barriers for civic participation,” Price Kromm said.

There has been disinformation surrounding the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), which has been used by multiple states — including North Carolina, she said — to keep track of voter information. She said ERIC is an incredibly important tool for maintaining voter roll lists.

Since the 2020 election, some states have pulled out of the system due to a lack of confidence, among other concerns.

“You have groups advocating for election integrity but wanting to pull out of a system that creates good election integrity to make sure that we maintain a good voter list,” Price Kromm said.

H.B. 293 was referred to the House rules committee on March 8, which means the bill will not receive any discussion on the House floor, according to Buansi.

Though the bill is not likely to be passed into law, Buansi said part of the purpose of the bill is to showcase where Democrats stand on issues such as voting and democracy. 

He said he hopes this bill can play a role in motivating people to get out to the polls and vote in the next election cycle.

“What we're trying to communicate to folks is that your votes do count,” Buansi said. “In the end, the fate of a bill like this, the fate of our democracy is in everybody's hands.”

N.C. Reps. Kristin Baker (R-Cabarrus) and Brian Biggs (R-Randolph), who are members of the Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform Committee along with Buansi, did not respond to The Daily Tar Heel's requests for comment before the time of publication. 

@oliviagschwind

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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