Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a Republican-sponsored voter-rolls bill Wednesday, his 10th veto of the N.C. General Assembly’s 2019 session.
Senate Bill 250 would remove from voter rolls anyone who is disqualified from jury duty because they have been determined not to be a U.S. citizen.
The latest of six versions of SB250 cleared the N.C. House on a 59-51 vote Oct. 30 in Raleigh; the N.C. Senate approved it the same day 29-21 along party lines.
Critics argue that the bill could disenfranchise some people who are actually eligible to vote — for example, people who claimed they are not a citizen just to get out of jury duty or people who gained citizenship after being cut from a jury-duty roll.
There also were concerns expressed that there would not be enough information in the website listing to differentiate between individuals with the same name.
As has been the case with Cooper’s other nine vetoes, including the state budget compromise on June 28, it would take at least seven House Democrats and at least one Senate Democrat to support a veto override at full attendance.
The bill cleared the legislature after a compromise that removed a requirement that the State Board of Elections post online a list of individuals affected by the law and their voting-registration status.
“Only citizens should be allowed to vote,” Cooper said in a statement posted on the N.C. governor’s website.
“But blocking legitimate voters from casting a ballot is a risk we cannot take when the law already prevents non-citizens from voting and has legitimate mechanisms to remove them from the rolls,” he wrote. “This legislation creates a high risk of voter harassment and intimidation and could discourage citizens from voting.”
Cooper’s veto, as expected, drew criticism from Republican legislators and praise from liberal groups.
“Governor Roy Cooper continued his radical left-wing agenda by blocking a bill titled ‘Remove foreign citizens from voting rolls,’ even though federal authorities recently charged 19 foreign nationals in North Carolina with voting illegally,” GOP state Sens. Joyce Krawiec of Forsyth County and Warren Daniel of Burke County, said in a written statement.
Tomas Lopez, the executive director of left-leaning Democracy N.C., called SB250 “a needless and wasteful attempt to force court and election officials to waste time and resources to use records of excusal or disqualification from jury duty for identifying non-citizens on the voting rolls.”
“With the governor’s action today, he has stalled a proposal that would have used untrustworthy data to target and harass North Carolinians, including legitimate, naturalized U.S. citizen voters,” Lopez said.
The online-posting provision drew complaints from the state elections board and immigrant advocates, who said it could lead to intimidation of lawful voters, according to The Insider, a online legislative media outlet.
State Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, and a bill co-sponsor, said on Oct. 2 that he didn’t think thousands of noncitizens were on voter rolls, “ but I would be surprised if there wasn’t hundreds.” Cleveland said on Oct. 29 that he agreed to remove the online-posting provision to make the bill less controversial.
The bill specifies that potential jury candidates be U.S. citizens and live in North Carolina and the county where they’re called for jury duty.
The latest version of the legislation — the one that passed —removes language that required that the Superior Court clerk in every county retain the names and addresses of individuals asking to be excused from jury duty for a disqualifying reason. Those names would be kept separate from the master jury list for each county.
The Superior Court clerk would be required quarterly to submit to the State Board of Elections the names of those individuals disqualified from jury duty on the basis the person is not a citizen of the United States. The board would have 30 days to review the voter registration of those individuals, including state and federal databases.
The State Board of Elections would distribute to county boards of elections its review to compare with their voting rolls. The names of those individuals determined to have voted while not a U.S. citizen would be submitted to the county district attorney for potential prosecution.
County boards of elections would have 30 days to provide a written notice to people suspected of voting while a noncitizen.
If a person doesn’t object, their name would be removed from the voter rolls.
People who object to be removed from voter rolls would get a hearing before the county elections board where they could present evidence that they have become a naturalized citizen.