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N.C. Republicans seem poised to override the governor's veto of new voting rules

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

North Carolina's voting rules are about to change dramatically. Republicans in the legislature say their bill is about protecting election integrity. They intend to override a veto by Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, who said this.

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ROY COOPER: This attack has nothing to do with election security and everything to do with keeping and gaining power.

SHAPIRO: Rusty Jacobs is a political reporter at WUNC in Durham. Hey, Rusty.

RUSTY JACOBS, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: There's a lot in this bill. Tell us about one of the big changes that this package would make to voting in North Carolina.

JACOBS: A banner provision in this bill would be the elimination of a three-day grace period for counting mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day. Now, this is a grace period that's been in place since getting unanimous bipartisan approval in 2009, no issues in all the years since then. But remember, in 2020, with elections administrations across the country easing rules around absentee voting because of the surge of interest in that method amid the COVID-19 pandemic, you've got candidates like Donald Trump, then President, casting doubt suddenly on that method of voting, undermining public trust in the method of voting. And suddenly, you've got Republicans latching on to that idea, convincing people that they need to change laws to boost election integrity. Now, here's Republican Representative Grey Mills. He's the committee - the chairman of the House committee on elections here in the North Carolina General Assembly, talking about election integrity.

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GREY MILLS: North Carolina voters are smart voters. They're conscientious voters. They will know the rules ahead of time. Let's make Election Day mean Election Day.

JACOBS: Now, what's specious about that line, Ari, is the fact that in North Carolina, results on Election Day are never final or certified until 10 days later when the post-election audit process called the county canvass is done. Plus, mail-in ballots from military personnel and other citizens overseas are given a nine-day grace period under state law.

SHAPIRO: Well, what's another big change that this package includes?

JACOBS: The change to the conduct or the way the legislation dictates the conduct allowed for partisan poll observers. Cleta Mitchell is a North Carolina-based attorney and an ally of Trump and known for her participation in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. She's got an organization called the Election Integrity Network. North Carolina has a chapter of that group called the North Carolina Election Integrity Team. The leader of that group and Mitchell met with Republican lawmakers ahead of this legislation and really wanted to see the rules expanded for how freely partisan poll observers can move around voting sites. So the legislation now says that they can listen in on conversations between voters and precinct officials as long as those conversations only pertain to elections administration, but it's very hard to police that in the moment. And Democrats and Governor Roy Cooper say this is an invitation for partisan interference with voters and possible intimidation.

SHAPIRO: Well, in just a couple of sentences, if this entire package does become law, as looks likely, how big of a change is this going to make for politics in this important swing state of North Carolina?

JACOBS: Well, again, it means that people are going to have to adjust to a new rule. They're going to have to make sure their ballots are postmarked by Election Day and are received by the close of polls on Election Day. There's also some changes to same-day registration. And of course, you know, you've got partisan poll observers who are going to be within several feet of you as you're making these decisions on Election Day.

SHAPIRO: All right. Rusty Jacobs of WUNC, thank you.

JACOBS: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Rusty Jacobs
Rusty Jacobs is a politics reporter for WUNC. Rusty previously worked at WUNC as a reporter and substitute host from 2001 until 2007 and now returns after a nine-year absence during which he went to law school at Carolina and then worked as an Assistant District Attorney in Wake County.