Absentee voting just got a whole lot easier in North Carolina.

Governor Roy Cooper signed a new law Friday easing absentee voting restrictions in the midst of a pandemic. The Bipartisan Elections Act of 2020 allows some processes to be done online, and reduces the number of witnesses needed for the ballot to be filled out.

Prior laws required absentee requests be mailed to the county Board of Elections, a delay that could potentially keep ballots from making it to voters—especially if voters filled out the first one incorrectly and had to send a second request. It was also required that two witnesses be there when a voter filled out an absentee ballot, despite the fact that the average North Carolina household has less than three people.

You can now request an absentee ballot via e-mail or fax with an electronic signature. And starting in June, you only need one witness to fill out a ballot. 

“Making sure elections are safe and secure is more important than ever during this pandemic, and this funding is crucial to that effort,” Cooper said in a press release Friday. The state will receive over $10 million in funding from the federal government to prepare for the effects of coronavirus on the 2020 election; $424,000 of that will be spent creating a ballot request website.

Fortunately, the state’s Republican-backed voter ID law remains in appeal limbo after being blocked by the courts for targeting, “African American voters with almost surgical precision.” That means absentee voters won’t have to attach a copy of their ID to ballots unless an appeal is successful. 

In recent months, voting absentee in North Carolina was a frustrating process. The INDY shared stories in February of frustrated NC voters across the country having their ballot requests denied, or never receiving confirmation that they were received. In response, a group of voters sued the state over the primary election’s voting process.

While the lawsuit was filed before COVID-19 erupted in North Carolina, its requests became urgent once the pandemic took root. The State Board of Elections endorsed two of the seven requests in the suit back in March. For now, the mandates are only in effect until December 31, 2020.

State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell expects up to 1 in 5 North Carolinians to vote absentee this year, a huge jump from the 5% participation of previous elections. UPDATE: Request your absentee ballot here.

SL2020-17 by Sara Pequeño on Scribd

Contact digital content manager Sara Pequeño at spequeno@indyweek.com. 

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