NC lawmakers to discuss bipartisan bill on absentee voting this week

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- House Republicans and Democrats hope to help the state elections board prepare for an increase in absentee voting.

Elections officials say typically 4 to 5 percent of voters mail in their ballots.

But this fall, they project 30 to 40 percent of voters could vote by mail.

House Bill 1169 could update that process.

Voters would be able to request an absentee ballot through email, fax, or online.

One person could verify your absentee ballot vs. the previous requirement of two witnesses.

Election leaders said that with the majority of poll workers being older than 65, this bill will provide more flexibility in recruiting precinct officials.

The bill would also provide more funding to help make in-person voting safer and offset any extra costs.

"I'm really excited about it," State Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Democrat from Guilford County and co-sponsor of the bill, told ABC11. "I think if other states could follow our lead this wouldn't be a debate. This is all about making sure people have access to their right to vote and don't risk their health. It's been an inspiring experience to work across the aisle and across the chambers to come up with a bill that's common sense that also helps voters."

HB 1169 would also prevent the state board of elections from moving toward an all-by-mail election day and prevent sending unrequested ballots to your address.

But some advocates said the bill should go further to reduce limitations on voting.

On Wednesday, 30 civil and social justice groups will host a virtual rally called "ProtectOurVoteNC."

They are asking lawmakers to consider making election day a holiday, expand curbside voting, and ensure the postage for mail-in ballots is prepaid.

"Our votes matter, our lives matter," said Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP.

HB 1169 is expected to be voted on this Thursday.

The Senate is working on a similar bill.
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