by J. Sailor Jones, NC Newsline
Last week, North Carolina Election Integrity Team (NCEIT) President and Lee County GOP Chair Jim Womack said the quiet part out loud when he told news reporters he would “fundamentally disagree” with the notion that more people voting helps conservatives.
This admission likely helps explain why Senate Bill 747 would jeopardize so many North Carolina ballots. This new package of election changes proposed by our state’s Republican lawmakers was influenced by the organization Womack started with top GOP strategist Cleta Mitchell.
Mitchell is best known as a former Trump lawyer who was present in the room when the then-president asked Georgia officials to “find” him the votes to win in 2020. But Mitchell is now making a name by setting up so-called “election integrity” outfits like NCEIT in swing states across the country. She’s peddling her anti-voter agenda, as she did recently to Republican National Committee donors when she said it is far too easy for our nation’s young people to cast a ballot.
Recently, Mitchell could be seen in the halls of the General Assembly, as part of a flurry of 2023 lawmaker meetings that have resulted in excerpts from the group’s proposals showing up word-for-word in elections legislation this session.
Similarly, SB 747 gives Mitchell much of what she’s been asking for. Among many other election law changes, the 16-page bill would:
Install harsh new limits on voting by mail that would make it possible for postal service delays to dictate whose ballots count, subject voters to having their ballots publicly inspected, and permit many more people to challenge mail-in ballots. Gut same-day registration during early voting, potentially impacting the election experiences of hundreds of thousands of voters, tossing eligible votes, and delaying election results, and Create a new process for canceling voter registrations that would be dependent on unreliable jury excusal data and could lead to harassment of our immigrant neighbors.
In addition to endangering votes, the bill could serve another insidious purpose. SB 747 cuts funding for election administration, undermines state and county officials’ current authority, and abets Mitchell’s longstanding disinformation efforts ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Bill sponsors have publicly bristled at the idea that Mitchell influenced SB 747, but side-by-side comparisons of at least ten proposals within the bill and NCEIT’s legislative priorities make claims from Senate Republican leader Phil Berger’s office that “[n]ot a single word of draft legislation produced by [Mitchell’s group] was used in Senate Bill 747” not credible.
What’s more, lawmakers’ efforts to distance themselves from SB 747 haven’t stopped Mitchell’s North Carolina chapter from taking credit for the legislation. In a post addressing the bill on an Asheville Tea Party website (since removed from the site), NCEIT touted “Look What WE Did” and “NCEIT will be tracking our proposed legislation in the NCGA.”
This victory lap from anti-voter extremists has helped prompt concerned North Carolinians from all parts of the state to respond. Only days after some of the Senate’s most powerful Republicans proposed SB 747, hundreds have already contacted their lawmakers demanding they oppose the bill.
North Carolinians have good reason to be concerned — especially if 2013 is any guide.
A decade ago, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder that blocked a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, North Carolina’s then Republican supermajority quickly rammed through HB 589, the infamous “Monster Voting Law.”
That legislation expanded on earlier proposals by imposing even more severe restrictions on voting. Thankfully, the law succumbed to public pressure and federal courts (for “targeting African Americans with almost surgical precision”) and it was eventually relegated to the dustbin of history.
Unfortunately, however, with another G.O.P. supermajority in place, election extremists informing their process, and a more conservative judiciary rubber-stamping attacks on voting rights, some state lawmakers will likely feel emboldened to add even more barriers to voting going forward — from racist voter ID provisions to distorted and gerrymandered voting districts. Senate Bill 749, a bill introduced by legislative leaders on June 12 to take over state and county elections boards, is yet another case in point.
As before, it’s time we stop them. Our democracy depends on it.
To learn more about S.B. 747, and how to speak out, visit ccnc.me/ourvotes.
NC Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. NC Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Rob Schofield for questions: email@example.com. Follow NC Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.