@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Bill to match jury excuses with voter lists raises concerns

Posted February 28

State Board of Elections sign

— A bill that would require clerks of court to report to the State Board of Elections the reasons some people have been excused from jury duty has raised concerns from local officials and some senators who worry people could be improperly excluded from voting.

Senate Bill 60, which was debated but not voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, and a companion measure represent the latest effort to take people who are ineligible to vote off the state's voters rolls.

To demonstrate the need for the measure, Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, pointed to reports out of Ohio that non-citizens may have voted in recent elections. Her proposal is similar to bills that have been filed in prior sessions.

Because people who are serving felony sentences or are "not citizens" of the county or state can't serve on juries, the idea is to turn that information over to election officials, who are supposed to exclude similar categories of people from voting. But that sort of matching often yields false positives.

For example, a student who is attending a university out of state may be excused from jury service but could still be eligible to vote at his or her home address. On other rare occasions, people may be ineligible to serve on juries because they were immigrants but subsequently become naturalized citizens.

"This doesn't say what the Board of Elections is supposed to do with the information," said Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, questioning whether a condition that might excuse someone from jury duty might not be the same as a condition that disqualifies the same person from voting.

"Are these the same criteria?" she asked.

The State Board of Elections has not taken a position on the bill.

But Brian Shipwash, clerk of Superior Court in Davidson County, said the North Carolina Conference of Clerks of Superior Court opposes the bill in its current form due to potential administrative problems.

"We've got a lot of concerns about this bill," Shipwash said. "We want to take steps so we don't exclude people who have a right to vote."

He and Wake County Clerk of Superior Court Jennifer Knox told the committee they want to help Krawiec achieve her goals, but they need time to suggest changes to the legislation.

It's unclear if or when the committee will hear the bill again.

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