Making mail ballots due on election day is right

By Dr. Andy Jackson

Raleigh, NC – Below is my prepared public comment for the North Carolina House Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform Committee meeting on House Bill 304, The Election Day Integrity Act:

photo by Element 5 Digital

I am Andy Jackson with the John Locke Foundation. I am speaking in support of HOUSE BILL 304, The Election Day Integrity Act, which would make election day the deadline for absentee-by-mail ballots.

The current system creates confusion and, despite any claims to the contrary, does not guarantee that every mailed ballot will be counted.

The reliance on postmarks under current law creates problems with missing or illegible postmarks and has created confusion over whether a ballot has been legally submitted.

We saw county election board hearings in 2020 during which the Paul Newby and Cheri Beasly campaigns argued over whether a ballot was “in the mail stream” and should be counted or not. We know of at least one incident that year in which the local post office had to inform the Wake County Board of Elections that the postmarks on the ballot envelopes were incorrect.

Those who claim that making election day the deadline for mail ballots would disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters either don’t realize that people will adjust to the new deadline or are pretending that they don’t.

But, let’s not hide in the false belief that current law guarantees everyone will have their mail ballot counted. In the 2022 general election, 1,202 ballots were not accepted because they were marked as late. Too many people still believe everything will be fine if they put a ballot in the mailbox by election day.

In addition, as Judge William Osteen noted in 2020 in Moore v. Circosta, there is no statutory definition for a postmark. That leaves the postmark requirement vulnerable to lawsuits the next time there is a close election. In Numbered Memo 2022-15, the State Board of Elections even put the word “postmark” in quotation marks.

In short, the post-election deadline introduces confusion and does not prevent ballots from being rejected for being late.

North Carolina should rejoin the majority of other states by again making election day the deadline to receive absentee ballots.

Thank you.

I, or none of the other scheduled speakers were allowed to make comments at the committee meeting for two reasons. First, debate on the bill and several amendments to the meeting went long. Second, twelve people had signed up to speak. There was not enough time to let all of us speak for even 30 seconds each. Committees can only stay in a room for a finite period of time.

Here is some background.