(The Center Square) – Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed a bill that would have banned private funding of elections administration in North Carolina.
Senate Bill 725 would have prohibited state and county boards of elections and county boards of commissioners from accepting private contributions to conduct elections or hire temporary employees. Cooper said outside funding is crucial for election operations.
"Elections are fundamental to our democracy and in 2020, grants from nonpartisan nonprofits were needed for necessities such as masks, single-use pens and other protective equipment, so voters stayed safe during the pandemic," Cooper said in a statement. "The legislature should start properly funding elections boards to ensure accessible, safe, and secure elections every time, which would end the need for grants."
The bill cleared the Senate, 46-27, and the House, 63-48, last month. Democrats strongly opposed the measure in both chambers.
The bill was filed in response to donations from the Center for Tech and Civic Life to nearly three dozen county election boards for sanitizers, pens and to hire poll workers. Democratic lawmakers said the legislation continued former President Donald Trump's opposition to the November 2020 election results.
Republican sponsors of the bill pointed to a recent poll showing 40% of North Carolina voters were concerned the 2022 election will not be "free and fair."
"There is nothing more quintessential to the role of government than funding and administering elections," said Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, who co-chairs the Senate Elections Committee. "Strangely, Gov. Cooper wants them funded by private interests. The amount of legislative funding for elections is not the issue. This is potentially the beginning of a destabilizing era in which a core function of democracy – counting the votes – is funded by private interests."