The state House approved Wednesday along party lines a Senate bill that would remove from voter rolls anyone who is disqualified from jury duty because they are determined not to be a U.S. citizen.
Senate Bill 250, currently titled “Remove foreign citizens from voting rolls,” was passed by a 66-46 vote through Republican support after clearing the Senate by a 27-19 vote on April 10.
Because a third reading was objected to by Sen. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, a final vote was delayed until at least today.
The bill, if it clears third reading, goes back to the Senate to concur or reject the House changes. Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, is primary bill sponsor. Krawiec could not be immediately reached for comment on the House changes.
Analysts said Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper could choose to veto the bill given the changes.
The initial version of the bill focused on requiring county superior court clerks to keep record of individuals who requested being excused from jury duty and were deemed as disqualified. The record keeping would be for two years.
The House Rules and Operations committee made the latest in series of changes Tuesday, including the title, resulting in the bill becoming more specific about its intent.
A new section addressed if an individual is disqualified from jury duty “because the person is not a citizen of the United States.”
The records retained by the State Board of Elections would be public records and retained for four years.
The state board would be required to distribute to a county board of elections “the names on that report of individuals registered to vote in that county who were excused from jury duty based on disqualification because the person is not a citizen of the United States.”
“Upon receipt of these names, each county board of elections shall use this report in conducting systematic efforts to remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters pursuant to this section.”
Harrison said she objected to the third reading partly because an amendment was not ready to be submitted, and partly from concerns of too many false matches affecting U.S. citizens being found in other states with similar legislation.
Kelly Tornow, associate general counsel with State Board of Elections, told WRAL in Raleigh there will be some form of verification check before removing anyone from the voter rolls. WRAL reported there is a format used to remove felons from the voting rolls, which involves sending written notice to the addresses where people are registered to vote and giving them 30 days to object.
The first change was made by the Senate Judiciary committee April 3 to add language that would require electronically notifying the state board if an individual is disqualified from jury duty due to age, citizenship, residency or criminal history. The individual’s name, address, reason for disqualification and the date of disqualification would be kept for two years.
Language was added by the Senate before the bill was approved April 10 that said the state board “shall use this information to conduct efforts to remove names from its list of registered voters in accordance with General Statues.”
On June 27, the House Judiciary committee added language to the bill that required the state board to “distribute to the county of board elections the names ... of individuals registered to vote in that county who were excused from jury duty based on disqualification due to citizenship, residency or criminal history as described in (the General Statutes).”
Mitch Kokai, senior policy analyst with Libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation, said “it’s not clear that the House made drastic changes that would prompt the Senate to reject concurrence.”
“One suspects this is the type of bill that Gov. Cooper might find objectionable.”
Zagros Madjd-Sadjadi, an economics professor at Winston-Salem State University, said that "repeatedly, we find that efforts to 'purge' voter of 'non-citizens' end up being in error."
As similar legislation was being considered in 2012, WRAL News reviewed a list of 1,980 individuals that a Wake County Clerk of Court's database showed as excused from jury service because they were a "non-citizen of state." The list was compared with state election board voter records.
"Of 169 possible matches, WRAL News was able to determine all but 83 were either not the same people or had good reason to be in both data sets. For example: Some were excused from jury duty and later became naturalized U.S. citizens. Others were clearly mislabeled as non-citizens in the court database.
"For the 83 remaining matches, the State Board of Elections documented that the people in question were legal voters using information from the Division of Motor Vehicles and other sources."
Madjd-Sadjadi said "there really is no issue" requiring the need for legislation in the latest edition of SB250.
"I can understand that in a close election, every vote does count," he said
"Even still, if one is concerned about this, the solution is to verify documents on the front end before someone gets on the voter rolls, not attempt to purge existing individuals who are on the voter rolls.
"In the end, denying an eligible voter their right to vote is a far graver error than allowing someone who is questionable to vote. ... We cannot provide someone with the ability to vote after they have been denied that right on Election Day."