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The North Carolina General Assembly has undertaken significant legislative initiatives aimed at reforming the electoral process. Presently, these pivotal bills await deliberation within committee sessions. The North Carolina Forward Party emphatically urges the General Assembly to promptly take up these bills for comprehensive debate and consideration. It is imperative that these proposed reforms undergo thorough examination and discourse on the legislative floor, given their potential to substantially enhance and fortify the state's electoral system. The North Carolina Forward Party stands prepared to collaborate with legislators in facilitating the progression of these crucial reforms, aiming to establish a more resilient and accountable electoral framework for the collective benefit of North Carolinians.

Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV) or Instant Runoff and Open Primaries (H851)

Sets an open primary for certain offices to be held on a Tuesday set by the General Assembly, with voters voting for one candidate from a list of candidates and the top four candidates advancing to the general election. Applies to the election of any State or federal office, including any statewide executive office, the office of United States Senate, the office of United States House of Representatives, member of the State Senate, member of the State House of Representatives, and elected judicial offices, except for elections for president. Provides for petitioning requirements to appear on a primary ballot and contents of ballot. Specifies that minor parties qualified for the general election in accordance with GS Chapter 163 are not required to compete in the primary and may choose their nominees by party convention and that other minor parties may choose their candidates by meeting ballot access requirements set by State law.

Provides that the general election will be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even-numbered years, and will be conducted by ranked choice voting. Specifies that ranked choice voting (i.e., a system where voters rank candidates in order of preference and candidates with fewest first-preference votes are eliminated after an initial tabulation and those votes are redistributed to candidates that voters have marked as their next preference) will be used any time there are at least three candidates in the general election. If only two candidates are in the general election, then the standard voting method set forth in GS Chapter 163 applies. Directs the State Board of Elections (Board) to research and develop an optimal method for conducting and counting a ranked-choice voting election that complies with the act. Specifies four things that the Board should review in conducting the Study, including previous ranked-choice elections in the State. Directs the Board to also (1) research and design an easily understood ballot to work with various voting equipment used in the State and (2) develop a program of voter education in ranked choice elections.

Appropriates $410,000 from the General Fund to the Board in nonrecurring funds for each year of the 2023-25 fiscal biennium to be used as follows: $210,000 for each year of the biennium for information technology development work related to election reporting and ballot changes to integrate into the current Statewide Elections Information Management System and $200,000 for each year of the biennium to be used for statewide education and training. (UNC Legislative Reporting)

Independent Redistricting Commission (S642)

Part I.

Effective beginning with the redistricting done upon the return of the 2030 decennial census, enacts Section 25 to Article II of the NC Constitution to charge the NCGA with establishing by law an independent process to revise the electoral districts for Congress and the NCGA after return of the decennial census, subject to the following limitations. Prohibits NCGA involvement in revising electoral districts. Requires each NCGA member and US House member to represent as equal numbers of inhabitants as possible. Mandates districts to consist of contiguous territory. Prohibits division of a county for NCGA districts to the extent practicable and consistent with federal law. Mandates that the districts remain unaltered until the return of another decennial census. Grants adopted electoral districts legislative force and effect. Makes conforming changes to Sections 3 and 5 of Article II to charge the NCGA with establishing an independent process to revise legislative districts and the apportionment of legislators among those districts. Effective beginning with the redistricting done upon the return of the 2030 decennial census, amends Section 5 of Article II to require that every bill in which the General Assembly makes an appointment or appointments to public office must be read three times in each house before it becomes law and must also be signed by the presiding officers of each house. (Currently, applies to bills that solely pertain to: appointments, revisions to senatorial and representative districts, and revisions to districts for elections to the US House of Representatives.) Subject to approval by voters of the State at the general election in November 2024.

Enacts Article 1B, Redistricting, to GS Chapter 120. Sets forth 15 defined terms. Establishes the NC Citizen Redistricting Commission (Commission), charged with preparing preliminary, proposed, and alternative plans for legislative and congressional apportionment and adopting final plans for the purpose of nominating and electing legislative and congressional members. Details Commission member eligibility, including residency and voter registration requirements, and a number of disqualifications, among them: contributing more than $1,000 to any candidate for public office and no more than $10,000 in total to candidates for public office, having been a staff member or legal counsel to the NCGA, having served in any public office except if the candidate has served in a federal or State recognized Native American tribe, having held any political appointment, and having been convicted of a crime against a governmental body of the United States or a crime with a direct connection to espionage, terrorism, treason, sabotage, sedition, and insurrection (including the following: overthrowing or attacking any governmental body of the United States, preventing any official of any governmental body of the United States from performing his or her official duties, or preventing persons from exercising their rights under the laws of any governmental body of the United States).

Bars a person having served as a member of the Commission from holding any public office until conclusion of the term they were appointed so serve, even if they resign or are removed prior to the conclusion of their term. Details member application procedures, including applying to the State Auditor with relevant information and disclosures for eligibility review, who will then review the application pool and submit a diverse group of up to 60 applicants to the NCGA, as specified. Requires the Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate President Pro Tempore, and Senate Minority leader to each strike six candidates. After that occurs, provides for selection of 15 diverse Commission members, as specified. Sets terms at 10 years. Details other parameters of the Commission, including appointment of a chair, removal from office, vacancies, and reimbursement of member expenses. Provides for a $2,000 stipend for each month the Commission meets. Details Commission staffing and the application of open meetings and public records laws.

Enumerates six criteria that all redistricting plans must meet, including electoral impartiality and minimization of the number of split communities of interest, as defined. Provides for Commission adoption of preliminary, proposed, alternative, and final plans depending on appointed member affiliations. Directs the State Auditor to submit to the Commission a list of qualified persons who can serve as a special master, who must draw and submit a plan that the Commission must adopt in the event a plan cannot be adopted pursuant to the statute. Provides for appointment of the special master by the Commission, depending on appointed member affiliations.

Mandates the Commission hold a minimum of 20 public hearings across the State, requiring providing the seven enumerated resources for public input, including sufficient time to review the plan, access to demographic data and mapping software.

Authorizes the NCGA to assign to the Commission the duty to prepare district plans for local government if their governing board or an appropriate court so requests.

Provides for Commission member terms to begin on January 1, 2023, and conclude on June 30, 2030, for any redistricting that might occur pursuant to GS 120-2.4 based on data from the 2020 federal census.

Makes the above statutory and uncodified provisions effective January 1, 2030, subject to voter approval of the constitutional amendments set forth in this Part.

Part II.

Makes conforming changes to GS 120-2.3 regarding judgments invalidating apportionment or redistricting acts.

Makes conforming changes to GS 120-2.4, requiring a court to grant the Commission two weeks' time to remedy any defects a court has identified in a plan apportioning or redistricting legislative or congressional districts prior to the court imposing its own substitute plan. Makes further conforming changes.

Repeals GS 120-133, which provides for the confidentiality of NCGA redistricting communications until plans become law.

Effective January 1, 2030, subject to voter approval of the constitutional amendments set forth in Part I of the act. (UNC Legislative Reporting)

Term Limits (S394)

Establishes the eight-member Commission on Legislative Reform (Commission). Provides for member appointment by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, with four appointments each. Bars elected officials from serving on the Commission. Provides for a Commission chair, meetings, vacancies, and member expenses. Charges the Commission with studying and making recommendations regarding modifications to the NC Constitution with regards to NCGA member terms, NCGA member term limits, limitations on the length of legislative sessions, legislative compensation, and legislative per diem and mileage allowances. Enumerates six other areas the Commission can study, including the length of legislative sessions for each biennium since 1981 and the length of other states' legislative session and limitations on the length of legislative sessions, as well as any other information the Commission deems appropriate. Directs UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Government to assist the Commission by providing a meeting space, provide necessary clerical, administrative, and legal support, and preparing the Commission's report. Directs the Commission to report to specified NCGA leadership and committee chairs by April 15, 2024, as specified. Terminates the Commission upon the earlier of submission of its report or April 15, 2024. (UNC Legislative Reporting)