Another dangerous election bill from NC Republicans

·3 min read

North Carolina Republicans are still suiting up against an imaginary enemy: election fraud.

Nearly a year after the 2020 election, the latest attempt to undermine the processes that decided it is moving through the N.C. House of Representatives.

House Bill 259, ironically named the “Election Integrity Act,” would link jury excuses to voter registration rolls in North Carolina. If someone called for jury duty says they’re not a citizen, their name would be forwarded to the State Board of Elections. That information would be matched against the state’s voting rolls, and any non-citizens would be removed. The names of those people would then be public record.

But illegal voting by non-citizens is not a widespread issue, no matter how much Republicans claim it is. In the 2016 election, just 19 foreign nationals were charged with illegally voting in North Carolina, and only nine of them were charged with falsely claiming U.S. citizenship to get on voter rolls. Nearly 4.8 million people voted in North Carolina’s general election that year. And even if it were a significant problem, using juror information to track it down is unreliable and often misleading. A 2012 analysis from WRAL News found that in every single case, the potentially fraudulent voter identified through jury excuses was, in fact, a U.S. citizen.

Even more concerning is the fact that the names would become public record, singling out those often innocent individuals, organizers say. In the past, groups such as the Voter Integrity Project have used public information to root out perceived irregularities in voter rolls, tracking down addresses and knocking on doors of those who they believe may have voted illegally. Meanwhile, Republicans are already being sued for libel for wrongly accusing people of voting illegally.

“This bill promotes a completely unfounded fear that there are problems with our elections, that there is something we need to be concerned about the way our elections are administered or the way that our voter rolls are managed. And those things are just not based in reality,” Ann Webb, senior policy counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, said.

The good news is that the bill probably won’t make it onto the books. A similar bill was passed by the General Assembly in 2019, but it received a veto from Gov. Roy Cooper, who said it carried a “high risk of voter harassment and intimidation.” Surely Republicans aren’t naive enough to think the bill will actually become law this time around. So what’s the point?

It’s political posturing, plain and simple. But even if the bill never goes anywhere, it’s not without consequence — the rhetoric behind it is damaging enough. Republicans don’t care about passing a law as much as they care about sending a message, or fighting a problem that was never much of a problem to begin with.

“This is all interconnected into the narrative that many Republicans in North Carolina and across the country are weaving, which is that the election was stolen, and really casting doubt on democratic systems that do work,” Caroline Fry, interim advocacy director for Democracy North Carolina, said. “It’s very troubling.”

It’s ironic, really, that the same politicians who pride themselves on protecting democracy are actually the ones dismantling it. For years, Republican lawmakers have chipped away at voting rights, sowing distrust in the elections process in the name of “election integrity.” According to the ACLU, more than 400 anti-voter bills have been introduced in 48 states in recent years. Most recently in Congress, Republican senators have vowed to block the Freedom to Vote Act, with the notable help of Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Thom Tillis. After all, limiting the vote is the only way to maintain power for a party with a shrinking base.

Now, Republicans again want to appeal to voters back home with bills that do more harm than good. If they really want to address what’s threatening our democracy, they should start by looking in the mirror.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting