NC Freedom to Vote Act would protect and improve our democracy
The freedom to vote has faced serious challenges in recent years. New voting restrictions, rampant disinformation, threats to voters and election officials, and even violent attempts to overturn election results have led to growing concern about the future of our democracy and election process.
Now, North Carolina has an opportunity to strengthen our freedom to vote. But the window won’t open itself. House Bill 293, the recently filed Freedom to Vote Act, features critical measures that would allow all North Carolinians to have a voice in the issues important to them. By fully funding elections, expanding voter access, and delivering a fair redistricting process, the Freedom to Vote Act would empower North Carolinians to participate freely in our elections process and know for certain that they have a voice in shaping issues important to their everyday lives like public safety, education, and healthcare.
- Fully-funded elections — We can’t have true election integrity if we don’t have fully funded elections. Last year, cuts made to our state’s election budget shortchanged North Carolina voters and resulted in the loss of critical personnel needed to safeguard our elections. Funding is key to strengthening North Carolina’s election infrastructure, and adopting the Freedom to Vote Act would restore critical resources to our State Board of Elections.
- Protections for polls workers and voters — Threats of violence have no place in our democracy. Last year, the state reported 20 cases of potential voter intimidation, interference, and election official intimidation. Several county board election officials resigned from their positions in the last couple of years because of these issues. Our elections rely on the hard work of these public servants, and we owe it to them to ensure they are protected.
- Bringing voter registration into the 21st Century — The pandemic revealed how critical it is to have online voter registration systems that are accessible to all eligible voters. Although our state has limited online voter registration, expanding and creating a full online voter registration process would be a safe, secure, and cost-effective solution that would give every eligible voter in North Carolina access to a secure online voter registration system, bringing our antiquated system into the 21st century. Taking this step to update our voter registration process and join the states that have already established a full online registration process, is especially important considering we had shortages of paper voter registration forms this past year.
- Improving voter access — Democracy works best when more voters show up and participate, which makes our election results more representative. We simply can’t have a healthy democracy if it’s hard for eligible voters to participate. And the evidence is clear: when voting is made more accessible, more people participate. The Freedom to Vote Act would extend weekend early voting hours which provide voters with important flexibility to exercise their freedom to vote.
- Preventing wrongful voter roll purges — County boards of election maintain a complex database of every registered voter in the state. And like any database, voter rolls must be maintained. Good maintenance ensures that every eligible voter can cast their ballot without problems, reduces administrative burden, and safeguards our elections. But unfortunately, North Carolina has a history of wrongfully purging voters from the rolls. The Freedom to Vote Act includes list maintenance changes that would prevent wrongful voter purging.
- Study commission to develop nonpartisan redistricting by 2030 — For many years, North Carolina has been ground zero in the fight to end both racial and partisan gerrymandering, and our state is constantly plagued by redistricting lawsuits we can’t afford. Instead of flushing millions of dollars in state revenue down the drain by relitigating the redistricting process year in and year out, we should focus on improving the system. The Freedom to Vote Act would make significant progress in achieving fair districts and ensuring our communities’ needs come first.
Instead of rolling back voting rights and restricting access to the ballot box, North Carolina lawmakers need to work to improve our election system and remove unnecessary barriers so all eligible voters can make their voices heard and counted.
Together, we can find workable solutions that bring us closer to the ideal of a state that is truly of, by, and for the people – because we all thrive when we have the freedom to vote.