State Board to hold public hearing on proposed election rules

Staff report


RALEIGH — The State Board of Elections will host a virtual public hearing on proposed rules at 1 p.m. Thursday.

The State Board will accept comments on rules related to the expiration of political parties, precinct observers, recounts, and campaign finance. Members of the public can listen to the hearing and participate through Webex.

“Public feedback is essential to the elections process,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board. “These proposed rules are not set in stone and can be updated based on comments from concerned citizens and voters.”

After signing up, registrants will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the webinar. Participants are asked to use the Panelist code provided in the confirmation email if planing to make an oral comment during the hearing. Use the Attendee code to listen to the hearing but not comment.

The written public comment period runs through June 1. Comments may be made through the online Public Comment Portal or via email at [email protected] Comments also can be mailed to Rulemaking Coordinator, P.O. Box 27255, Raleigh, NC 27611-7255

After the public comment period and public hearing, the State Board will make any necessary changes and adopt final versions of the rules. The Rules Review Commission will then review them for compliance with the requirements in Chapter 150B.

Blow is a brief explanation of each proposed rule:

— 08 NCAC 01 .0107: Proposed amendment would clarify when a political party expires and set the timeline for changing the registration of voters affiliated with the expired parties. According to the rule, a party ceases to be a political party when the State Board certifies the general election in which the political party failed to poll for its candidate at least 2% of the entire vote cast in the state for Governor or for presidential electors. If the political party submits documentation by the date of certification that it had a nominee on the ballot in at least 70% of states in the prior presidential election, it will not cease to be a political party.

Voters registered with an expired political party shall be changed to unaffiliated as required by G.S. 163-97.1 on the 20th day before the opening of the candidate filing period for the next regularly scheduled election held after the date the political party failed to continue its legal status.

— 08 NCAC 20 .0101: Proposed amendment would clarify the number of precinct-specific observers permitted and how the lists of observers are to be submitted. The proposed rule still allows three observers from each party to be at any site at one time.

— 08 NCAC Chapter 09: Proposed amendment would remove references to direct record electronic voting machines (DREs), clarifies the conduct of recounts, and details how the county board of elections makes determinations of voter intent in hand-to-eye recounts. The proposed amendment would codify past guidance of the State Board.

As provided in G.S. 163-182.1(a), voter intent is the governing standard when questions arise about how to adjudicate markings on a ballot. Questions about voter intent may arise during a hand-to-eye recount if a voter marks the ballot in an inappropriate manner, places marks in the wrong location on the ballot, or marks the ballot in a way that causes the voter’s choice to be in dispute.

Determinations of voter intent shall be made by the county board. If the bipartisan team of four encounters a ballot that cannot be clearly identified as a vote for one candidate or another, the ballot must be set aside for board consideration.

All ballots with a potential overvote or undervote shall be adjudicated by the county board at the conclusion of the tallying by the bipartisan team.

— 08 NCAC 21 .0107: Proposed rule would permit the use of electronic signatures in future campaign finance software.

— 08 NCAC 21 .0202: Proposed rule would outline the process for closing a candidate or political committee once it ends operations and disposes of its assets. The rule would also clarify limits on when a committee may close.

— 08 NCAC 21 .0203: Proposed rule would require and set a deadline for a committee to file a new certification of threshold at the beginning of a new election cycle if the committee intends to remain under threshold pursuant to G.S. 163-278.10A.

— 08 NCAC 21 .0401: Proposed rule would clarify communications with State Board staff and opportunities for feedback from the committee during the campaign finance audit process.

— 08 NCAC 21 .0501: Proposed rule relates to disclosure legends on print media advertisements and defines a “billboard” as any sign, flat surface, or display larger than 2,160 square inches (15 square feet). The proposed rule would only apply to campaigns for state candidates, would not affect any advertisement supporting a candidate for president or Congress, and would only apply to advertising campaigns of a certain dollar value. Homemade signs or flags bought or made for less than $1,000 – even if they meet the definition of a billboard – would not require a disclosure legend and will not be subject to any penalty. An individual who unintentionally violates the law will not face criminal penalties.

— 08 NCAC 21 .0102, .0103, and .0104: Proposed amendments would clarify who may sign disclosure reports.