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These fact checks of North Carolina politics are a collaboration between PolitiFact and WRAL. You can hear them Wednesdays on WFAE's Morning Edition.

Fact Check: Rep. Ted Budd ‘False’ In Claiming Federal Bill Would Allow Minors To Vote

mail ballot
Chris Miller

Republican Ted Budd of the 13th Congressional District recently tweeted he's opposed to a federal voting rights bill introduced by congressional Democrats because he said it "allows minors to vote."

Joining us now to assess that is WRAL's Paul Specht.

Marshall Terry: Paul, the bill that Budd is referencing here is known as the For the People Act. What all does that bill include?

Paul Specht: This is a massive bill. Generally speaking, it aims to expand voting access across the country. It deals with specific voting rules. And it also deals with a little bit of money in politics. But some of the things that Budd specifically mentioned deal with voter ID, they deal with expanding access to felons, they deal with voter registration and even expanding access to absentee voting — which obviously we talked a lot about during the pandemic last year.

Terry: Why did congressional Democrats introduced this bill?

Specht: Well, they want to clear obstacles in the way of people who have trouble voting. And, you know, across the country, each state has different rules. Each state has different rules for, say, felons, as I mentioned, and had different rules for absentee voting. And so the goal here is to expand access through a new federal law that would sort of cut through some of these state laws.

Terry: So is Budd right then when he said this bill would allow minors to vote?

Specht: No, he's not. And Budd, if you read the fact check, you'll see he has this tweet that mentions a list of things that he does not like. It's a list of four things. And this is the third one, allowing minors to vote. And that is the one that's most glaringly wrong.

There's nothing in this bill that would allow minors to vote. When we reached out to his office and asked, "Hey, where's he getting this?" His office said he was referencing a provision that would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote. And that's the key word there: preregister. That does not mean they could vote early. It means that those kids could fill out paperwork and get everything in order so that when the day comes, when they do turn 18 and the election does come around, everything is ready to go.

Now, there was an amendment that was proposed by Massachusetts Democrat Ayanna Pressley. She did propose to lower the voting age, but her amendment failed massively. More than 300 House members voted against the idea, so that didn't come close to passing.

Terry: You said that Budd in his tweet mentioned other things about this bill he didn't like. Such as what?

Specht: Now, he mentioned voter ID. He said this bill would eliminate voter ID. And he's not totally off-base here. There are some states, obviously, that require photo ID to vote. And what this bill would do was not eliminate those laws so much as offer people a way to get around them. And what I mean by that is it would allow people who don't have a photo ID to fill out a sworn affidavit swearing they are who they say they are when they go vote. So there's an element of truth there. We just thought that particular claim about eliminating voter ID needed a little more context.

Onto the next one: he said it would allow felons to vote. That's also true, but with one small caveat. If someone was still serving their sentence, they could not vote. But once they served their sentence, this bill would allow them to vote.

And then lastly, and I thought this one was kind of funny, Budd said it expands no-excuse absentee voting. And as we mentioned, different states have different rules for who qualifies to get an absentee ballot. Well, North Carolina is already a no-excuse absentee voting state. And what that means is you don't need an excuse, you don't need a reason to request an absentee ballot. In other states, you need to be working or be out of state or have some other reason that you can't vote in person. In North Carolina, you don't need any excuse like that. Any person in North Carolina can request an absentee ballot.

Terry: Well, let's go back to the claim by Congressman Ted Budd that we were originally talking about, and that is that this bill would allow minors to vote. How did you rate that claim?

Specht: That's false. There's just no way that that's true. He was referencing preregistration, but that's not clear from his tweet. That context is not there. And it stands out among his other claims in this tweet that the other ones had some some element of truth to them. But this one is just patently false.

Terry: All right, Paul, thanks.

Specht: Thanks for having me.

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Marshall came to WFAE after graduating from Appalachian State University, where he worked at the campus radio station and earned a degree in communication. Outside of radio, he loves listening to music and going to see bands - preferably in small, dingy clubs.