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Gov. Cooper vetoes S.B. 747, a bill that would restrict mail-in voting

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"I voted" stickers were distributed at polling stations located in the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History during Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

On Aug. 24, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 747, saying the legislation — which would change election rules — is an assault on voting rights.

The bill, introduced into the N.C. General Assembly earlier this summer, was passed by both chambers and would be enacted in 2024. The legislation outlines new voting guidelines including modifications to mail-in ballots, polling observers and same-day registration.

In a video message, Cooper said that although Democrats have stopped similar bills before, Republican lawmakers currently have a supermajority, which means they can override any of his vetoes.

“They’re making it harder for you to vote, hoping that you won’t bother,” Cooper said.

N.C. Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Buncombe, Burke, McDowell), a primary sponsor for the bill, said he anticipated Cooper's veto, but said the proposed changes should be positive for voters.

“Hindsight is 20/20,” he said. “So we can look back at things that could have been done better in our elections and maybe how we can give people more confidence in the fairness of an election and that everything’s being done right and especially being counted.”

Since 2016, according to the Heritage Foundation, there have been 32 cases of voter fraud in North Carolina, eight of which were related to the illegal use of absentee ballots.

Daniel said there is currently no uniformity in the observation of the election process, so this bill creates guidelines that observers must follow.

“Having eyes on the election process by volunteers is just one of the ways that I think we can ensure that elections are being run right,” he said.

If those who do same-day registration do not have their submitted information verified on time, then the ballot can be withdrawn under this legislation, Daniel said.

The bill would also require all mail-in votes to be received by the county boards of elections by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. Under current state law, there is a three-day period after Election Day when ballots can still be received.

“If your professor says, ‘We’re backing up the deadlines, I used to give you until Thursday, now I’m going to give you until Tuesday,’ that’s kind of the same thing here,” Daniel said.

Kate Fellman, the founder and executive director of You Can Vote, said changes regarding mailing in ballots will be drastic for people who have been doing it since the current law went into effect. She said the tight turnaround will impact those with disabilities and those in rural communities.

Every time election laws change, Fellman said You Can Vote updates its training and materials. She said re-educating volunteers can be difficult because they want to ensure that they release trusted, verified information.

“There are decision points all the way up and down your ballot every single year that impact our lives. I just want to make sure that everybody knows that we want your voice in all of these decisions — otherwise if you’re not participating, someone else is making those decisions for you,” she said.

Fellman said she is frustrated that voting opportunities are being challenged, especially since it is already difficult to get people involved in civic participation.

She said voters could now challenge the validity of other voters' mail-in and early voting ballots under S.B. 747. Anti-voter groups can weaponize this and challenge voter eligibility and discount votes, Fellman said.

“There's no protections for voters to not have new election rules every single time they go vote and that inconsistency can lead to just as much confusion,” she said.

Patrick Gannon, the public information director for the N.C. State Board of Elections said the board does not have the funding to mail information changes to all voters, but that the changes should not prevent anyone from voting.

“We want everybody who is eligible to cast a ballot in every election that they’re eligible to vote in,” he said.

Republicans in the General Assembly have the votes to override any of Cooper's vetoes — including on S.B. 747 — and have done so 14 times this session.

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