Apparently, the folks at the state elections board are putting up a fuss trying to block some grassroots activists (people like us) from inspecting the official registry of absentee ballot requests. One lady (with extensive knowledge of election law) from the Elizabeth City area is not too happy about it:
T H I R D R E Q U E S T
RE: Session Law 2019-239, Senate Bill 683 and your email to Philip Thomas on Sept 13, 2020
I have just reviewed what I hope is the final and standing law on elections which is Session Law 2019-239, Senate Bill 683 as referenced in your email to Mr. Thomas.
163-228 REGISTER OF ABSENTEE REQUESTS, APPLICATIONS, AND BALLOTS ISSUED, A PUBLIC RECORD
(a) With respect to each request for mail-in absentee ballots, the State Board shall approve an official register in which the county board of elections in each county of the state shall record the following information
(1) Name of voter for whom application and ballots are being requested, and, if applicable, the name and address of the voter’s near relative or verifiable legal guardian who requested the application and ballots for the voter.
(c ) The official register required by subsection (a) of this section shall be confidential and not a public record until the opening of the voting place in accordance with G.S. 163-166.01, at which time the official register shall constitute a public record. The Official register required by subsection (a1) of this section shall constitute a public record and shall be opened to the inspection of any registered voter of the county within 60 days before and 30 days after an election in which absentee ballots authorized, or at any other time when good and sufficient reason may be assigned for its inspection.
Now, I am not lawyer, but neither am I a novice to Chapter 163. This seems to say that the official register as defined by section (a1) of 163-228 is a public record and Is open to INSPECTION BY ANY REGISTERED VOTER IN THE COUNTY, within a defined period before and after the election. Understanding that the only item open to inspection is the name of the voter and/or the voter’s near relative or verifiable legal guardian who requested the application and ballots for the voter.
Now as far as your reference to 163-237 CERTAIN VIOLATIONS OF ABENTEE BALLOT LAW MADE CRIMINAL OFFENSES
(D6) Disclosure of Register of Absentee Ballot Requests – Notwithstanding G.S. 132-3(a), any person who steals, releases, or possesses the official register of absentee requests for mail in absentee ballots as provided in G.S. 163-228 prior to the opening of the voting place in accordance with G. S. 163-166.01, for a purpose other than the conduct of business at the county board of elections, shall be guilty of a Class G felony.
Now, I would like to point out that the Voter is the Election Police. Johnnie McLean made that point clear during my 12 year tenure on the Pasquotank County Board of Elections. In as much, when a voter presents themselves to vote, registered voters are allowed to challenge that voter. An absentee voter presents at the time they request a ballot. A registered voter is conducting the business allowed by law to effectively monitor our elections for voter fraud if they request the name of voters requesting absentee ballots. That is conducting business at the county board of elections, just as I do after each election when I verify signatures on ATV’s. (D6) is very clear that anyone who steals, releases, or possesses the official register shall be guilty. But inspecting the names is not possessing the official register. I would like to point out that in 2016 several people residing in other states voted in Pasquotank County. It is my statutory duty to challenge such voters if enough evidence is present that they are not residents of our county. I am certainly looking for that NY lawyer, the nurse in DC, and two college professors residing in Texas and Rhode island but those names will not be disclosed until 5:00 p.m. on Nov 3, 2020 when election day challenges must be filed.
Please advise on my interpretation of this law. Perhaps you have additional statutes that I have not covered and I would welcome the education.