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N&O misses point on absentee ballot reform bill, sticks with “Orange Man Bad”

The General Assembly House Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform Committee met yesterday to consider several bills. While the committee approved most of the bills with little discussion, a couple generated a bit of heated conversation before being they ultimately passed them by voice vote.

One of the bills that generated some heated discussion was House Bill 782 (Elections Certainty Act.), The bill would return the functional deadline for election boards to receive absentee ballots to where it was about a decade ago: election day. The current functional deadline is three days after election day if the ballot return envelope is postmarked by election day.

Predictably, the Raleigh News & Observer critiqued the bill through the “Orange Man Bad” school of journalism:

The bill appears based on unfounded conspiracy theories promoted by former President Donald Trump and his supporters who claimed the 2020 election was not legitimate.

However, as I previously documented, there are problems with depending on postmarks. Those include, but are not limited to, how to deal with illegible, missing, or incorrect postmarks. Those issues created problems in 2020 as both campaigns in the NC Sumpreme Court Chief Justice race took complaints about absentee ballots to county boards of elections:
After Paul Newby’s razor-thin victory over Cheri Beasley in the NC Supreme Court race for chief justice last November 3, both campaigns lodged complaints with county boards of elections about ballots they believed were inappropriately counted or not counted. Some of those complaints concerned the postmarking of ballots that came in after election day.
The need to interpret whether or not a ballot has been properly marked is an unnecessary bureaucratic step. That is why North Carolina should rejoin the majority of states that already require absentee ballots be received by or before election day.
Oh, and the committee favorably reported H782.

Andy Jackson / Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity | John Locke Foundation