North Carolina Legislature Sends Anti-Voting Election Bill S.B. 747 to Governor

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, Aug. 16, the North Carolina Legislature, along party lines, approved omnibus voter suppression bill Senate Bill 747, sending it to Gov. Roy Cooper (D) for his signature or veto. 

S.B. 747 would enact numerous new voting restrictions in the state and represents the most significant move North Carolina Republicans have taken to meddle with elections this year. Drafted with input from election-denying Republican lawyer Cleta Mitchell, the bill would impose a variety of election restrictions, including:

  • Banning private funding for election administration,
  • Shortening the timeline to return absentee ballots from three days after Election Day to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day,
  • Transferring election crime investigations to the State Bureau of Investigation,
  • Excluding any missing witness information from the categories of “curable deficiencies,”
  • Allowing poll observers to freely move around polling locations, listen to conversations between voters and election officials and take photographs,
  • Extending the deadline for challenging to mail-in ballots from Election Day to five business days after Election Day and
  • Requiring same-day registrants during the early voting period to vote on a “retrievable” ballot after providing required documentation at the polls. These votes will only be counted if the U.S. Postal Service is able to verify the voter’s address via a deliverable notice prior to the start of county canvass, which begins 10 business days after Election Day.

The bill will also launch a pilot program during the primary held in 2024 for signature verification on mail-in ballots. The State Board of Elections will select 10 counties of varying size, regional location and demographics. As part of the pilot program, ballots that fail the signature verification won’t be rejected for that reason. 

  • Software will be used to verify that a voter’s signature on their mail-in ballot matches what the state has on record. Other states have found the verification to be finicky and the practice is highly litigated.

Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has expressed opposition to the bill that suggests he will veto it. However, state Rep. Tricia Cotham, who ran as a Democrat in the Democratic-stronghold of Mecklenburg County, switched party membership earlier this year. This alarming switch has given North Carolina Republicans the requisite numbers to override Cooper’s veto.

All of these restrictive changes to North Carolina’s election law come as voters and election officials begin to navigate a new photo ID requirement ahead of municipal elections this fall. The photo ID requirement, previously found to be unconstitutional by the state’s highest court, was allowed to be implemented this spring after the newly conservative North Carolina Supreme Court redecided Holmes v. Moore in a highly unprecedented and concerning reversal. 

Read S.B. 747 here.
Track the status of S.B. 747 here.