Raleigh, N.C. — The House Elections Committee approved a bill Thursday protecting the votes of people who pass away between casting an early ballot and Election Day, when that vote is officially counted.
House Bill 1267, the Everette Harris Act, is named for the father of 2014 U.S. Senate candidate Mark Harris, who lost in the Republican primary.
The elder Harris mailed in his absentee ballot in early April, during the early mail-in voting period, but passed away April 17, before May 6 primary.
Under current law, if an early voter dies before Election Day, his or her ballot can be challenged on that account. Such ballots are rarely challenged, but when they are, they are usually disqualified because, by state law, a voter must be qualified to vote as of Election Day.
Everette Harris' ballot was challenged by a Democratic voter in Forsyth County. The county elections board sustained the challenge, and the ballot was left uncounted.
The proposal adds language to the voting statute that says, "The death of the voter is not grounds for challenge of an absentee ballot if the voter was alive at the time of casting the ballot."
Supporters of the change say it will protect mail-in voters as well as overseas and active military voters.
The measure passed the committee with little debate, but one critic says it will encourage fraud.
"We extend our deepest sympathy for Mark Harris for the loss of his father, but this bill will re-energize the practice of stealing votes from dead people by making detection more difficult," voting fraud activist Jay Delancy said in a statement.
The bill heads to the House floor Thursday afternoon.