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NC Elections Board Wants Easier Mail Voting, Along With State Holiday For Election Day

The NC Elections Board is preparing for a surge in mail voting.

The State Board of Elections on Thursday asked legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper to make it easier for people to vote absentee by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Elections executive director Karen Brinson Bell asked that voters be allowed to request mail ballots through an online portal, and to allow them to return ballot request forms by fax or email. Right now, voters must return ballot request forms by mail or deliver them to a county elections office in person. 

She also requested that the state eliminate the requirement that a mail ballot be witnessed by two people or a notary. Because of social distancing, Brinson Bell recommended that the state require only one witness or eliminate the witness requirement altogether, which would “further reduce risk.”

She also asked that the state pay for postage to make it easier for people to return mail ballots. 

The state is worried that it won’t have enough poll workers to staff precincts because most of the workers are elderly – a segment of the population that’s vulnerable to COVID-19.

She suggested the state make the November election day a state holiday, which would “expand the potential pool of poll workers to students, teachers, and younger individuals.”

The North Carolina Democratic Party has asked for more changes, including allowing third parties to collect mail ballot request forms and ballots. That is illegal today in North Carolina.

In a bipartisan vote last year, legislators prohibited third parties from collecting mail ballot request forms. That came after the 9th Congressional District mail ballot scandal, in which a Bladen County political operative allegedly illegally collected mail ballots on behalf of Republican Mark Harris.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.