What’s an authorizing resolution? An escape valve that’s run out of steam

June 4, 2012

Since 1976 (the second short session) the adjournment resolution of the odd-year North Carolina General Assembly has limited the subjects that can be considered in the even numbered year, but always with the same escape valve: “Any matter authorized by joint resolution passed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the House of Representatives present and voting and by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Senate present and voting.”  This is called in legislative parlance an “authorizing resolution”

For the 1976 short session matters allowed in by passage of such a resolution plus any bill directly affecting the budget were the only items authorized to be considered.  Now, other categories such as bills that had passed one house in the off-year, been recommended by a study, or noncontroversial local bills take up most of the non-budgetary work of the even-year short session.

In fact, since 1999 there have only been two authorizing resolutions passed by the requisite 2/3 vote, down from the common 30 resolutions ratified in many of the short sessions from 1984-1992.  Here’s a count of ratified authorizing resolutions for each short session:

1976   4

1978  22

1980  10

1982 23

1984 38

1986 19

1988 11

1990 30

1992 37

1994 5

1996 7

1998 2

2000 0

2002 1

2004 0

2006 1

2008 0

2010 0

2012 0 (to date)

Why such the sharp drop in authorizing resolutions between 1992 and 1994, and their becoming a nonfactor after that? There’s not even any lore about it. Marc Basnight did become Senate President Pro Tem in 1993 holding that office through 2010, but that may have just been a coincidence.


Reviewing absentee ballot reform in NC: 2012 primary shows improvement

May 21, 2012

A quick analysis of raw data for the 2008 and 2012 primaries from the North Carolina State Board of Elections on absentee voting for the primaries shows significant improvement in absentee voters getting their mail-in ballots successfully returned for counting. Comparing 2008 and 2012 primary election turnout showed substantial improvement in voters successfully casting ballots. Civilian ballot success went up from 74.4% to 83.9%, military from 26.8% to 31.4%, and overseas from 44.1% to 45.1%. Those changes are probably largely because of absentee ballot reforms in the 2009 and 2910 session of the NC General Assembly that simplified the process with special aim at military and overseas civilian voters.

The reforms as they applied to the 2012 primary (i) cut the number of witnesses required for absentee voters from 2 to 1, and (ii)  provided that rather than having to be received by the day BEFORE the election, civilian absentee ballots must be postmarked by election day and received by the Friday after the election, and military and overseas ballots have to be received by the day before the county canvass (making this year’s deadline 6 days after the primary). For the 2012 general election ballots will go out 60 days before the election, 10 days earlier than in 2008.

Here are some comparables with the numbers showing ballot applications received and ballots successfully cast:


CIVILIAN ballots from the 50 states + DC

2008 primary 23,576 of 31,699 74.4% success rate

2012 primary civilian 20,312 of 24,199 83.9% success rate, but of those 1,834 were received during the Tuesday-Friday extension, if the old deadline had applied the success rate would have been 76.4%.

Thus for civilians there was a slight improvement by the old return deadline, but the extended period substantially increased the chance a voter’s ballot was successfully cast.



2008 primary 1,043 of 3,892, a 26.8% success rate

2012 primary  584 of 1,858,  a 31.4% success rate, but of those 89 were received during the six-day extension, if the old deadline had applied the success rate would have been 26.6%.

Of note is the sharp drop in military applications between 2008 and 2012, possibly because of a reduction in overseas and other deployments during the 4-year interval.

While the overall success rate in the 2012 primary for military voters was 31.4%, 581 ballots were mailed out automatically to voters who had voted by mail in 2010, and the success rate there was 19.4%. Probably accounting for the low return rate is the inability go get mail delivered to military personnel with 2 year old addresses and discharges of military service perssonel in the two-year gap. Of military voters who applied for ballots in 2012, 36.9% were successful in getting their ballots counted.



2008 primary 450 of 1,021, a 44.1% success rate

2012 primary  661 of 1,466,  a 45.1% success rate, but of those 94 were received during the six-day extension, if the old deadline had applied the success rate would have been 38.7%.


Interesting were some of the reasons that the 3,872 civilian ballots that were sent out were not counted. While 3,014 were mailed out and simply not returned, here are some of the noted reasons boards of elections noted that the ballots did not count:

221 cancelled at request of voter (maybe the voter decided to vote in person?)

82 received by May 9-11 but not postmarked by May 8.

58 returned undeliverable by the USPS

148 ballot envelope not signed by voter

56 ballot envelope not signed by witness

288 spoiled ballots (returned by voter with a request for a replacement ballot)

50 rejected by county board of elections (reasons not specified)

23 returned by the voter with notation that they did not want to vote

Absentee voting statsapalooza

March 22, 2012

Last week I blogged about absentee voting reform in the ’09, ’10, and ’11 North Carolina General Assembly sessions that made it easier for the military and overseas voters to cast timely ballots that would be counted, and that also simplified the process for in country civilians. I first set foot in the General Assembly as a graduate student at Carolina in 1971 (before I went to law school) when I successfully lobbied for legislation to allow absentee voting in primaries (which had been banned since 1939 due to fraud in some sheriffs races.)

I’m going to be tracking especially the military and overseas voting through the calendar year to see if they contribute to ease. I’ve started to gather some statistics for 2012, as ballots began to be mailed out Monday March 19, with the request deadline of May 1 for the May 8 primary. The chart below shows totals as of close of business Wednesday, March 21, 2012 with 6,315 requests received.

tot D R U L


3995 1476 1752 763 4


1371 308 723 329 11


949 398 307 240 4


6315 2182 2782 1332 19
 D  R  U  L


36.9% 43.9% 19.1% 0.1%


22.5% 52.7% 24.0% 0.8%


41.9% 32.3% 25.3% 0.4%

total %

34.6% 44.1% 21.1% 0.3%






























In the chart above:

Civilian includes all persons who are already registered

Military are those on active duty who are NOT registered to vote, and also their spouses

Overseas are those out of the USA, are not registered to vote, and are not military. This category also includes expatriates, those who have left the country, still have US citizenship, and whose last reisdnece was North carolina.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections updates a zipped file each day which can be used for data analysis. The chart shows the three categories crosstabbed by Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, and Unaffiliated, and for unaffiliated voters tracks whether they have requested a Democratic (U to D), Republican (U to R), or Libertarian (U to L) primary ballot, or chose to just take the nonpartisan ballot (U to U).  The nonpartisan ballot, which Unaffiliated get if they do not ask for a aprty ballot, and which Libertarians also get because there are no Libertarian primaries this cycle, includes the constitutiojal amendment on marriage, and in some jursidictions district court, superior court, non partisan school boards, and some delayed municipal elections.

Absentee voting reform kicks in

March 13, 2012

After various national studies showed abysmal success rates for military and overseas absentee voters in 2006 and 2008, several pieces of legislation have worked reforms in North Carolina’s process since 2008. Those reforms kicked in partially in 2010 and are being fully implemented for 2012. Absentee ballot mailout for the May 8 primary begins next Monday, March 19, 2012.

First, the 2009 legislative session passed Senate Bill 253 which (i) cut the number of witnesses required for absentee voters from 2 to 1, (ii) provided for ballots to be sent out 60 days before the general election, rather than 50 (it remains 50 for the primary) and (iii) provided that rather than having to be received by the day BEFORE the election, civilian absentee ballots must be postmarked by election day and received by the Friday after the election, and military and overseas ballots have to be received by the Friday after the election (no postmark required for military ballots because military mail tends to NOT use postmarks) — thus extending the back end of the process by 4 days in all elections, and the front end by 10 days in general elections. The 2009 legislation was in part prompted by Congressional consideration and enactment of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act which required states to make reforms in military voting for federal elections.

Second, the 2010 session passed House Bill 614 which ended the practice of automatically sending out ballots to all military voters who had voted in the prior election, return rates were abysmal befause two year old military addresses were in the most case useless. In 2008 just 169 of 1169 military absentee ballots requested prior to 12/31/2007 were voted (14.4%),  compared with a 67% return rate for military personnel who applied after the start of the absentee voting period and a 74% success rate for civilian absentee voting in general.  The 2010 legislation did “grandfather in” military who voted in 2010 so they will still get ballots in 2012, but that process ends after this year.

Third, the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State laws prumulgated late in 2010 the Uniform Military and Absentee Voters Act,  which North Carolina adopted unanimously in both houses by House Bill 514 sponsored by the two current members of the General Assembly then in the military, Representatives Ric Killian and Grier Martin. That bill streamlined the military and overseas absentee voting process, allowed for electronic transmission, and extended the return date for military and absentee voters to the day before the county canvass — this means in the 2012 primary military and overseas ballots will be counted if received by Monday May 14 (six days after the election) and in the general election they will be counted if received by Thursday, November 15, nine days after the election. The deadline for in country civilian ballots will continue to be three days after the election as set in the 2009 reform. The Uniform law has now been enacted in six states (CO, NC, ND, NV, OK and UT) and in the District of Columbia.

Now, for some stats:

In 2008, there were 37,214 mail-in absentee ballots requested for the primary, of which 26,034 were successfully voted (69.96%).  31,698 of the requests were from in-country civilians, with a 74.4% success rate, 4494 were from military voters with a 44.35% success rate, and 1022 were from overseas voters, with a 44.42% success rate. As mentioned above, only 14.4% of the military ballots requsted prior to 12/31/2007 were succesfully voted.

In 2008, on the first day of mailout (50 days before the primary) 7,735 ballots were mailed out. Next week we will be able to see how many ballots are going out first day, Monday March 19, 2012.

I will try to keep up with this during and after the primary and general election process.

Whence Henry III provide for how to count the increasing day (February 29)

February 29, 2012

King Henry III in 1236 referred to February 29 as the “increasing day”, and the statute at Westminster from 1236 is remarkably the same as the current North Carolina law, which now provides (GS 12-3) “In every leap year the increasing day and the day before, in all legal proceedings, shall be counted as one day.” The law cited in its history note is 21 HENRY III — “STATUTE DE ANNO ET DIE, BISSEXTILI” and stated  “the day increasing in the Leap-Year shall be … taken and reckoned of the same month wherein it groweth; and that day, and the day next going before shall be accounted for one day …” (though commentators disagree whether this was an act of Parliament or a writ of King Henry III, nonetheless it is carried in the Statutes at large for that Parliament)

Actions in November 27-29 NCGA session

November 29, 2011

Here a bill status compendium of actions taken in the November 27-29 convening of the North Carolina General Assembly, note HB796 will be delivered to the Governor on Wednesday 11/30.

Bill Short Title Date Action Text
H151 ASK PARTY/RELY   ON NC COMPANIES/WORKERS FOR DNC. 11/29/2011 Ordered Engrossed
H645 Motor Fuel   Excise Tax Adjustment and Studies 11/29/2011 Passed 3rd Reading
H796 Breweries/Comm.   Coll./Supp. Fund. Clarified 11/29/2011 Ratified
S9 No   Discriminatory Purpose in Death Penalty. 11/29/2011 Pres. To Gov. 11/29/2011
S224 Appointments 11/29/2011 Ch. SL 2011-418
S433 Local Human   Services Administration. 11/29/2011 Motion to remove from unfav cal   fails

more historical NC Session Laws online soon

October 21, 2011

The North Carolina General Assembly website contains searchable and downloadable  Session Laws (enactments of the General Assembly in chronological order) at http://ncleg.net/gascripts/EnactedLegislation/ELTOC.pl?sType=Law

From 1959 through 1982 only LOCAL laws are included (those applicable in less than 15 counties), because they had be manually typed in and proofread when we buolt our electronic database in 1987. Most public laws are eventually codified in our General Statutes and available in a subject matter database http://ncleg.net/gascripts/statutes/Statutes.asp and local laws were a higher priority online need for legislative drafters, researchers and municipal and county attorneys and staff. From 1983 forward we have ALL Session Laws, public and local in our Session Laws database.

In 2008 after we added the 1959 local acts we stopped the manual process of adding older laws as digitzation of old books seemed on the horizon. Now, we’ve gotten to the horizon as a library digitization projects conclude.

Between now and July of 2012 we’ll start processing the  digitized 1008 public laws from 1981  and 1982 to add to the 392 local acts from that biennium in the database. While we will not be adding any large group of local acts pre-1959 until we get all the public laws online back to then, we are exploring adding several old city charters from Raleigh, Winston-Salem, and Asheville for historical reference purposes.

see http://ncbilldrafting.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/whats-a-city-charter-and-why-is-it-so-old/  the 25 largest municipalities all have charters enacted since 1958 which means they are already in our database. Missing? Three big ones:

Raleigh: Chapter 1184, Session Laws of 1949, April 23, 1949.

Winston-Salem: Chapter 232, Private Laws of 1927, March 3, 1927.

Asheville: Chapter 16, Private Laws of 1923, January 26, 1923, and Chapter 121, Private Laws of 1931, March 30, 1931.  The 1931 charter revisal was not a complete consolidation, it enacted new material as well as repealing parts and reenacting parts of the 1923 charter simply by referring to section numbers of the 1923 act, so both documents must still be consulted.


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