Measure ensures early voters their ballot counts even if they die before Election Day
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
June 25, 2014
RALEIGH — The N.C. House moved quickly and unanimously Tuesday to ensure that the ballots of North Carolinians who qualify for and take advantage of early voting and then die before Election Day are still counted.
House Bill 1267 is especially significant to former U.S. Senate candidate Mark Harris, as it bears the name of his father, Everette, who passed away April 17 after mailing in his completed ballot, but before the election canvass. Receiving a challenge initiated by Sparta resident Steve Mitchell and filed in Forsyth County by Cynthia Burke, election officials there tossed out Everette Harris’ vote, much to the dismay of his family, who were not notified of the hearing involving the challenge.
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said the Forsyth Election Board’s decision “followed the letter of the law without recognizing the spirit of it, thereby, insulting and dishonoring a man who served his country as a part of ‘The Greatest Generation’ during World War II, and whose last act of citizenship was to cast his vote — a vote not only for what he thought best for his country — but a vote dearest to his own heart — a vote for his beloved son.”
Mark Harris shared his thoughts on the matter with the Christian Action League Tuesday night.
“There is no question there was a bit of disappointment and confusion in the way it was handled on the front end with the folks challenging it and the Board of Elections not contacting us to let us know there was a hearing,” said the pastor of First Baptist of Charlotte. “But as I look at the decision today, the work that went in to crafting the bill and the clarification that was made, I’m both pleased and honored for my dad’s name to be attached to the bill.”
Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) described the measure in the House Elections Committee meeting Monday as a “straigtforward attempt to clarify the state statutes and make it absolutely clear that if an individual is able and qualified and registered and goes through the process of exercising their right to vote, that their vote would, in fact, count even if that person became deceased between the time that they cast that vote and the time the canvass was held.”
Fellow bill sponsor Rep. Jeff Elmore (R-Alleghany), who represents the area where Steve Mitchell lives, verified Mitchell’s claim that he had a relative whose vote was successfully challenged several years ago in a situation very similar to Harris’. Mitchell told the media he push for a challenge to Harris’ vote simply to call attention to the need for a change in the law. Rev. Harris said he had no reason to question Mitchell’s intent, but that he wished they could have worked together on getting the law amended without casting his father’s vote aside.
“Even so, in many ways, I think it is very fitting for my dad, who grew up as an orphan, served in World War II, had his plane shot down and was a prisoner of war in Germany, came out of the war, married my mom and had five kids and 12 grandchildren and always remained interested in the big picture,” Harris said.
“Dad’s generation managed to see America from that 30,000 foot view, where they believed that everyone should take risks and make sacrifices for their country. So for his vote not to count, but to call attention to the problem and assure that this doesn’t happen to someone else in the future is probably a fitting tribute for my Dad.”
Rev. Harris said he was especially appreciative to Rep. Lewis, who presented the bill on the House floor, and Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg), the measure’s third primary sponsor. Harris lost his bid for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate to Tillis.
“I understand it is rare for the Speaker to have his name listed on a bill, but he did so in this case, recognizing the ludicrousness of what was taking place and the need to clarify the law,” Harris said. “That was very gracious.”
The Speaker recognized the Harris family’s attendance in the House gallery just after the bill was passed on Tuesday. The Everette Harris Act will now go to the Senate.