Voting during a pandemic: Advocates and officials chime in


Hat-tip to Melissa Boughton for putting this together:

It’s not easy to forget the photos of masked Wisconsin voters standing in large lines waiting to cast a ballot in the middle of a pandemic. Residents there risked their health and lives to make their voices heard; they chose democracy in the face of uncertainty, and now, the rest of the nation has a chance to learn from them.

One big lesson that I hope the NC GOP learned from that fiasco is this: You screw around with the election process to try and protect one (or several) of your candidates, and the people are liable to punish you for it. With Jill Karofsky's win over uber-conservative Daniel Kelly, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is now 4-3 conservative, perched on the edge of a flip to Liberal control. The fact that very Court was poised to purge 200,000 voters from the rolls with Kelly's backing likely played a role also, as well as the Court's decision to force the election itself. Back to NC and the things we need to do to help voters:

Tomas Lopez (Democracy NC): Voters need access to a less burdensome mail-in absentee ballots process, that allows absentee requests by email, phone, fax, and via a secure online portal, reduces witness requirements from two to one or allows a signature option, and provides voters with pre-paid postage.

Bob Phillips (Common Cause): The biggest obstacle will be educating voters to whatever changes they are going to facing this election. The current cumbersome rules to vote an absentee ballot may be adjusted (we hope) to make it easier to both request and vote an absentee ballot. But again, voters will need to understand what those rules are.

Regarding in-person voting – it’s very possible that many counties will alter their precinct locations and hours of operation to accommodate social distancing. Bigger spaces for precincts with perhaps longer hours during the early voting may be necessary. Again – this will require public outreach education. As the saying goes, we don’t want any voter to have make a choice over voting versus their personal safety. The voting options in this election will likely change, and massive education for voters will be necessary.

David Lewis (NC House): I think the biggest issue for the 2020 election has become the economy. We are seeing record numbers of unemployment, businesses are closing, and the markets are incredibly volatile. North Carolinians want to be put back to normalcy and put back to work, which will require our economy to return to its thriving ways seen over the previous four years.

Jay Chaudhuri (NC Senate): The two biggest issues are keeping our polling places open and safe and expanding vote-by-mail.

While I applaud David Lewis for taking part in this roundtable discussion, that answer is pointless, and merely highlights the irresponsibility of his party. Later on he whines about Voter ID, which has f**k-all to do with protecting voters from COVID 19. If he is the best the GOP has to offer on this subject, we might as well just forget any Legislative remedies this session.

I'll finish with this from Bob Phillips:

We want lawmakers to make the rules on voting an absentee ballot easier and the recruiting of a younger and more diverse pool of poll workers better. Specifically, voters should be able to request an absentee ballot by phone, fax or email – not just downloading a form, filling it out and then mailing it to the board of elections – as is the current law. Then there’s the absentee ballot vote: we need lawmakers to reduce or eliminate the witness requirement for casting an absentee ballot.

Current law is you must have your absentee ballot notarized by a public notary or have two witnesses sign your ballot under the penalty of perjury attesting that they say you filled out your ballot. That’s impractical with the concerns of everyone wanting to practice good social distancing and limiting their exposure to other people in general. More than 70% of North Carolina households have two or fewer adults according to the State Board of Elections. That means a majority of absentee ballot voters are going to need to find someone outside their family to witness them filling out their ballot. The legislature can fix this by simply changing the law back to what it was prior to 2013 – where one witness was required to sign the absentee ballot.

This should be a no-brainer. We're in the middle of a fricking pandemic, with people huddled in their homes just trying to stay alive. And yet, every Absentee ballot requires someone who is not a family member to enter your home and sign off on your vote. Absent a pandemic, that's unnecessarily burdensome. But with Corona on the loose, that requirement is beyond dangerous.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record on this, but until I hear it (read about it) being stated on the floor of the General Assembly, I will continue.



It looks like I might be wrong

with this particular statement:

And yet, every Absentee ballot requires someone who is not a family member to enter your home and sign off on your vote.

I know at one time that was actually codified in the witness requirements, because I helped my mom vote back in 2013 or 2014. It was on the ballot itself (one witness who is not a family member), and it was after a second witness was added to the requirement. But I can't find that anywhere now, either on the NC BOE website, or the Statute itself.

But as Bob Phillips noted, a huge number of voters will have to bring somebody into their home anyway.