Bill requires jury excuses be reported to NC elections board

When someone is excused from jury service, it is often for reasons that would make them ineligible to vote. A bill approved by a Senate committee on Thursday would share information on jury excuses with the State Board of Elections.

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State Board of Elections sign
Mark Binker
RALEIGH, N.C. — The reason potential jurors are excused from jury duty would be reported to the State Board of Elections under a House bill cleared by the Senate's Judiciary II Committee on Thursday.

Many of the reasons that someone can't serve as a juror, such as being a convicted felon who has not regained their citizenship rights, no longer living in the state or not being a citizen, also would disqualify someone from voting.

"This is just another safeguard that the people who are voting are entitled to vote," said Sen. Shirley Randleman, R-Wilkes.

Starting next year, voters will be required to show photo identification to vote in North Carolina. That measure is part of a series of steps GOP lawmakers have taken in order to ensure people don't vote unlawfully. While Republicans say such measures are aimed at cleaning up the voter rolls, Democrats frequently challenge the measures as disenfranchising voters, particularly low-income people.

House Bill 100 requires that clerks of court record the reason someone is excused from jury service, make that information public record and periodically share the information with the State Board of Elections.

"This bill does not require anyone to be removed from the voter rolls," Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, said. "This gives the Board of Elections information."

The idea, Cleveland said, was that the board could then investigate whether the person is registered to vote, and if so, whether they should remain a voter.

Some clerks, including Wake County's clerk of court, already record the reasons people are excused from jury service. That information has been used to try to root out non-citizen voters – with mixed results. In some cases, the notation that someone isn't a citizen mean they no longer live in the state, not that they were from overseas. In other cases, a juror is excused for not being a citizen and then later becomes a naturalized citizen.

"I am worried that we are creating a scenario where someone can be thrown off inappropriately," Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, said, adding that she didn't see the jury and Board of Elections data as "apples to apples."

Backers of the bill pointed out that the state board would be given the date someone was excused from jury service as well as the reason, which would allow the board to sort through different situations.

"I don't think it disenfranchises anyone," Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, said.

The committee approved the measure on a voice vote. It next goes to the Senate floor.

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