Friday, 03 December 2021 13:39

Latest Cooper veto targets bill adjusting absentee ballot deadline

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RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed a bill that would have set Election Day as the deadline for mail-in absentee ballots in future N.C. elections. Cooper's rejection of Senate Bill 326 marks his 13th veto this year and his record-extending 66th veto since taking office in 2017.


"The legislature ironically named this bill 'The Election Day Integrity Act' when it actually does the opposite," Cooper said in a prepared statement. "Election integrity means counting every legal vote, but this bill virtually guarantees that some will go uncounted."

Current law requires election officials to accept absentee ballots that arrive by mail up to three days after Election Day. S.B. 326 would have restored the absentee ballot deadline North Carolina used before 2009. The change would have returned North Carolina to the majority of states — now 32 — that accept absentee ballots only through Election Day.

During the 2020 election, state election officials accepted absentee ballots arriving as many as nine days after Election Day. That extended deadline was part of a lawsuit settlement involving the State Board of Elections, state attorney general, and Democratic Party election lawyer Marc Elias. That settlement prompted protests from Republican legislative leaders.

Republicans contended that Democratic A.G. Josh Stein and Democratic elections officials colluded with Elias. A bill to prevent similar collusive lawsuit settlements in the future prompted a veto from Cooper in September.

But Cooper signed a state budget last month that included similar language restricting Stein's ability to settle lawsuits without legislative input.

Lawmakers approved the absentee ballot deadline bill on party-line votes. The Senate approved it, 28-21, in June. The House followed suit with a 62-48 vote on Nov. 18. Every "yes" vote came from a Republican. Every voting Democrat said "no."

Neither chamber approved the bill with the three-fifths majority required to override a governor's veto. Lawmakers have not voted to override a Cooper veto since December 2018. He has now vetoed 38 bills since that date.

Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, was a primary sponsor of the bill.

"Election Day should be the election deadline because it boosts confidence in elections to have results as close to the end of voting as possible," Newton said in a statement. "Election Day is the election deadline in plenty of Democrat-run states, yet Governor Cooper and Democrats keep peddling this bizarre theory that the policy is an attempt at voter suppression. Will the press finally ask Governor Cooper or Democratic legislators whether they believe Democrats in states with an identical policy are vote suppressors, or will they continue carrying water for the Democratic Party?"