Bill to scrub voter rolls based on jury excuses clears House

Bill pitched as a common sense defense against voter fraud, but Democrats predict it will remove innocent citizens from state's voting rolls.

Posted Updated

Travis Fain
, WRAL statehouse reporter, & Laura Leslie, WRAL Capitol Bureau chief
RALEIGH, N.C. — Jury excuses would be sent to the State Board of Elections so officials can remove non-citizens from North Carolina's voting rolls under a bill that cleared the state House on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 250 was pitched by Republican supporters as a way to combat voter fraud. Democrats against the bill said it was unnecessary and sure to snare innocent people.

The vote was party line, 55-49.

Under the bill, clerks of court would forward the elections board the names of people who get out of jury duty by saying they're not U.S. citizens. Those names would be published online, and election officials, the bill states, "shall use this information to conduct efforts to remove names from its list of registered voters."

"We have a problem with non-citizens voting in this state, whether you want to admit or not," Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, said on the House floor. "It's not a large problem."

An investigation into the state’s 2016 election found that, out of more than 5 million votes cast, only 41 were cast by non-citizens, and most of those were green card holders who thought they could vote.

Several Democrats argued that some U.S. citizens probably lie to get out of jury duty, checking a box that says they're not citizens on a form that doesn't always require a sworn statement. There's also the possibility of mistaken identity.

Cleveland said the information needs to be public so voter challenges can be undertaken by citizen watchdogs. But there’s no federal database of registered citizens to check voters against, so voters would have to take action to prove their citizenship.

"There’s a challenge done in a very systematic way, so nobody is going to get removed from the voter rolls unless they can prove that he is not a citizen or she is not a citizen," he said.

But Rep. Marcia Morey, D-Durham, said even the State Board of Elections has voiced concerns that voter records are required to be confidential under federal law.

"The outcome is you’re removed, and not only are you removed, your name is on a public record. That can lead to harassment. That can lead to identity theft," Morey said.

In 2012, WRAL News compared a list of people excused from jury service because they said they weren't citizens to voter records. Of 169 possible matches, WRAL was able to determine all but 83 were either not the same people or had good reason to be in both data sets, including those who later became naturalized U.S. citizens.

For the other 83 matches, the State Board of Elections documented that the people in question were legal voters using information from the state Division of Motor Vehicles and other sources.

This new bill is "going to disenfranchise a lot of eligible voters," Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, said Wednesday.

The measure moves to the Senate for more debate. It seems likely Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, would veto the bill if it gets to his desk, but the governor's press office would say Wednesday only that Cooper would review it.

This bill had previously gotten a positive vote in the House, but it was sent back to committee and amended before returning to the floor Wednesday.


Copyright 2024 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.