Senate Bill 683, Combat Absentee Ballot Fraud, is an attempt to address absentee ballot fraud in North Carolina.

Its primary reform is cutting political operatives off from information about which voters will receive absentee ballots. It does this through two means.

First, the bill makes absentee ballot requests private until Election Day.

Absentee ballot requests are currently a public record, meaning that political operatives seeking to harvest ballots can simply search through the lists of those who have requested absentee ballots to know approximately when voters will be in possession of their ballots.

Second, the bill would require that absentee ballot requests be delivered to the county board of elections “only by the voter, or the near relative or the verifiable legal guardian of that voter, so requesting the absentee ballot.”

The first step of ballot harvesting is when political operatives gather large numbers of absentee ballot requests using standardized forms and submit them in bulk to the local board of elections. Election operatives keep a list of those voters and revisit them to collect their ballots. SB683 would cut ballot harvesters out of this loop.

The bill also addresses absentee ballot fraud by eliminating standardized absentee ballot request forms (a favorite tool of ballot harvesters) and increasing criminal penalties for various activities associated with ballot harvesting.

One area of concern in the bill would allow county boards of elections to operate different schedules for early voting sites in the county on a reintroduced last Saturday of early voting. This provision would give local boards the power to give some voters access to more early voting hours than they give to other voters.

Despite that concern, SB683, on the whole, is a strong step towards absentee ballot reform in North Carolina.

For these reasons, Civitas Action believes a vote to support SB 683 is a vote for freedom.

Civitas Action will grade any votes on this legislation in the House or Senate.

Civitas Action is a 501(c)(4) non-profit that educates and informs North Carolinians on policy issues and the actions of their elected officials.