New legislation makes it easier for military overseas to vote

Staff writerJune 20, 2011 

— Gov. Bev Perdue Monday signed into law model legislation that makes it easier for North Carolina military serving overseas to vote.

Standing in front of dozens of National Guardsmen, Perdue said the legislation was part of North Carolina's efforts to become make the state military friendly.

The bill mandates that absentee ballots be sent at least 60 days before a general election to military overseas. It would also apply to civilians stations overseas.

The measure, which had bipartisan support in the legislature, follows a model law approved last year by the Uniform Law Commission. A report by the Pew Commission of the States in 2009, found that many military stationed overseas did not have time to vote.

“With the state's significant military population, this law is critical ensuring that tens of thousands of service members, as well as civilians overseas, will be able to cast a ballot and have it counted,” said Doug Chapin director of Election Initiatives for the Pew Center in Washington.

Perdue also signed several other military-related bills including measures to help pay for textbooks for military attending community college, and a measure creating new forms of collaboration between state and local agencies to deal with military brain injuries and other combat-related injuries.

But Perdue did not tip her hand on when she might decide on whether to sign or veto some of the more high profile bills before the legislature such as a measure to provide a waiting period for abortions or to require voters to show a photo ID.

She told reporters that she was concerned that the legislature was tending to become a full-time legislature, taking breaks, and then coming back to work. The legislature recessed Friday, but plans to return July 13 for a redistricting session and possiblly this fall for a session to consider constitutional amendments.

“Its interesting to see this movement toward three or four pieces of the session, taking a vacation in the middle of the work, and come back, which I find interesting,” Perdue said. “I am anxious to see how it works and if it does indeed help us move to a full-time legislature. I'm not saying if its good or bad. The Constitution has set up a part-time legislature.”

She also expressed concern about the “serious issues” that were decided “with little public debate.''

“It's been done before,” Perdue said. “But I've never seen it done this much. I felt that way about Democrats. I feel that way for Republicans. Public policy in a democracy must be debated in a public forum. That is what transparency is about. I think there is a lack of transparency as we dig into the details of some of this legislation.”

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