S724: Expand Access to Voter ID & Voting. Latest Version


Senate
Passed 1st Reading
Committee
Rules
Passed 3rd Reading
House
Passed 1st Reading
Rules



AN ACT to expand voter access by establishing a voting portal for VISUALLY IMPAIRED VOTERS to vote by absentee ballot online, allowing for the online submission of voter registration application forms, and stating THE INTENT OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO FUND a program to identify and assist voters needing photo identification.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:

 

PART I. VISUALLY IMPAIRED VOTER ACCESS

SECTION 1.(a)  Article 20 of Chapter 163 of the General Statutes is amended by adding a new section to read:

§ 163‑231.1.  Visually impaired voter access.

(a)        Any voter eligible to vote by absentee ballot under G.S. 163‑226 who is visually impaired may request to vote by absentee ballot pursuant to G.S. 163‑230.2 or G.S. 163‑230.3 and may vote by absentee ballot online using the visually impaired portal, maintained by the State Board. The State Board shall establish and maintain a portal for the visually impaired to vote an absentee ballot in accordance with this section. Any voter requesting to vote by absentee ballot using the visually impaired portal shall indicate on the request for absentee ballots submitted pursuant to G.S. 163‑230.2 or G.S. 163‑230.3 that he or she is requesting access to the portal. By submitting this request, the voter is confirming that he or she is visually impaired and meets all other requirements to vote by absentee ballot.

(b)        Completed absentee ballots cast through the visually impaired portal shall be counted in accordance with G.S. 163‑230.1 and G.S. 163‑234.

(c)        Upon receiving a completed request for absentee ballots with an indication that the visually impaired voter requests access to the visually impaired portal, the appropriate county board of elections shall contact the visually impaired voter via electronic mail. The communication must contain a link to the visually impaired portal.

(d)       In submitting voted absentee ballots through the visually impaired portal, the following shall apply:

(1)        Notwithstanding G.S. 163‑231(b), the voted absentee ballots shall be returned electronically to the county board of elections no later than 7:30 P.M. on the day of the statewide primary or general election or county bond election.

(2)        The voted absentee ballot shall be witnessed in accordance with G.S. 163‑231(a), provided that a notary shall not be permitted unless remote notarization is otherwise allowed by State law.

(3)        The signatures of the visually impaired voter and witnesses shall be submitted at the same time as the voted ballots. The State Board shall adopt rules to address signatures under this subdivision.

(e)        Nothing in this section shall prohibit a visually impaired voter from casting a ballot in accordance with any other provision of this Chapter.

SECTION 1.(b)  G.S. 163‑230.2(a) reads as rewritten:

(a)      Valid Types of Written Requests. – A completed written request form for absentee ballots as required by G.S. 163‑230.1 is valid only if it is on a form created by the State Board and signed by the voter requesting absentee ballots or that voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian. The State Board shall make the blank request form available at its offices, online, and in each county board of elections office, and that blank request form may be reproduced. A voter may call the State Board of Elections or a county board of elections office and request that the blank request form be sent to the voter by mail, e‑mail, or fax. The request form created by the State Board shall require at least the following information:

(1)        The name and address of the residence of the voter.

(2)        The name and address of the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian if that individual is making the request.

(3)        The address of the voter to which the application and absentee ballots are to be mailed if different from the residence address of the voter.

(4)        One of the following:

a.         The number of the applicant's North Carolina drivers license issued under Article 2 of Chapter 20 of the General Statutes, including a learner's permit or a provisional license.

b.         The number of the applicant's special identification card for nonoperators issued under G.S. 20‑37.7.

c.         The last four digits of the applicant's social security number.

(5)        The voter's date of birth.

(6)        The signature of the voter or of the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian if that individual is making the request.

(7)        A clear indicator of the date the election generating the request is to be held, except for annual calendar year requests in accordance with G.S. 163‑226(b).

(8)        A space for a visually impaired voter to request access to the visually impaired portal, as provided by G.S. 163‑231.1.

SECTION 1.(c)  G.S. 163‑231(b) reads as rewritten:

(b)      Transmitting Executed Absentee Ballots to County Board of Elections. – The sealed container‑return envelope in which executed absentee ballots have been placed shall be transmitted to the county board of elections who issued those ballots as follows:

(1)        All ballots issued under the provisions of this Article and Article 21A of this Chapter shall be transmitted by mail or by commercial courier service, at the voter's expense, or delivered in person, or by the voter's near relative or verifiable legal guardian and received by the county board not later than 5:00 p.m. on the day of the statewide primary or general election or county bond election. Ballots issued under the provisions of Article 21A of this Chapter or ballots issued pursuant to G.S. 163‑231.1 may also be electronically transmitted.

….

 

PART II. ONLINE VOTER REGISTRATION

SECTION 2.  G.S. 163‑82.19 reads as rewritten:

§ 163‑82.19.  Voter registration at drivers license offices; coordination on data interface.

(a)        Voter Registration at Drivers License Offices. – The Division of Motor Vehicles shall, pursuant to the rules adopted by the State Board of Elections, Board, modify its forms so that any eligible person who applies for original issuance, renewal or correction of a drivers license, or special identification card issued under G.S. 20‑37.7 may, on a part of the form, complete an application to register to vote, or to update the voter's registration if the voter has changed his or her address or moved from one precinct to another or from one county to another. The person taking the application shall ask if the applicant is a citizen of the United States. If the applicant states that the applicant is not a citizen of the United States, or declines to answer the question, the person taking the application shall inform the applicant that it is a felony for a person who is not a citizen of the United States to apply to register to vote. The application shall state in clear language the penalty for violation of this section. The necessary forms shall be prescribed by the State Board of Elections. Board. The form must ask for the previous voter registration address of the voter, if any. If a previous address is listed, and it is not in the county of residence of the applicant, the appropriate county board of elections shall treat the application as an authorization to cancel the previous registration and also process it as such under the procedures of G.S. 163‑82.9. If a previous address is listed and that address is in the county where the voter applies to register, the application shall be processed as if it had been submitted under G.S. 163‑82.9.

(a1)      Online Voter Registration. – The State Board and the Division of Motor Vehicles shall jointly develop and maintain an online voter registration system which allows any applicant described in this subsection to complete an application to register to vote or update an existing voter registration, whether or not the applicant is also simultaneously conducting a transaction with the Division of Motor Vehicles, provided that the online voter registration system complies with subsection (a) of this section and G.S. 163‑82.4 as to the form of voter registration. This section shall not authorize a registered voter to update the information required by G.S. 163-82.4(a)(6) or (a)(8) through the online voter registration system. The Division of Motor Vehicles shall be responsible for validating the applicant's identity, protecting and securing data maintained in the online voter registration system, and maintaining the security of the online voter registration system. The State Board shall be responsible for forwarding the online voter registration applications to the appropriate county board of elections in accordance with subsection (a3) of this section. For purposes of this subsection, only an individual who meets all of the following criteria may submit an online voter registration application:

(1)        The individual is either eligible to register to vote in this State or currently registered to vote in this State.

(2)        The individual has previously been issued either of the following by the Division of Motor Vehicles:

a.         A drivers license issued under Article 2 of Chapter 20 of the General Statutes, including a learner's permit or a provisional license.

b.         A special identification card for nonoperators issued under Article 2B of Chapter 20 of the General Statutes.

(a2)      Effect of Registration. – Registration shall become effective as provided in G.S. 163‑82.7. Applications to register to vote accepted at a drivers license office under this section until the deadline established in G.S. 163‑82.6(d)(2) shall be treated as timely made for an election, and no person who completes an application at that drivers license office under this section shall be denied the vote in that election for failure to apply earlier than that deadline.

(a3)      Processing of Registration. – All applications to register to vote shall be forwarded by the Department of Transportation to the appropriate board of elections not later than five business days after the date of acceptance, according to rules which shall be promulgated adopted by the State Board of Elections. Board. Those rules shall provide for a paperless, instant, electronic transfer of applications to the appropriate board of elections.elections, whether the application is received in the drivers license office or online.

(b)        Violation. – Any person who willfully and knowingly and with fraudulent intent gives false information on the a voter registration application [described in subsection (a) of this section] submitted under this section is guilty of a Class I felony.

(c)        Coordination on Data Interface. – The Department of Transportation jointly with the State Board of Elections shall develop and operate a computerized interface to match information in the database of the statewide voter registration system with the drivers license information in the Division of Motor Vehicles to the extent required to enable the State Board of Elections and the Department of Transportation to verify the accuracy of the information provided on applications for voter registration, whether the applications were received at drivers license offices offices, online, or elsewhere. The Department of Transportation and the State Board shall implement the provisions of this subsection so as to comply with section 303 of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The Department of Transportation shall enter into an agreement with the Commissioner of Social Security so as to comply with section 303 of the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

 

PART III. funds to establish a program to identify and assist voters needing photo identification

SECTION 3.  It is the intent of the General Assembly to fund a program in the 2021‑2022 fiscal year budget in which the State Board of Elections shall identify individuals in this State who need photo identification to vote in person. The program shall include a mobile component to visit individuals identified as needing photo identification to vote in person to ensure such photo identification is created for those individuals.

 

PART IV. EFFECTIVE DATE

SECTION 4.  Except as otherwise provided, this act is effective when it becomes law.