U.S. District Judge William Osteen has halted an effort by the Democrat-headed North Carolina State Board of Elections to eliminate the requirement that voters have a witness sign their mail-in ballots.
Democrats wanted to block a rule that required voters to have someone sign their mail-in ballot to ensure it’s authenticity, WRAL noted.
Judge Osteen said he was concerned that the state board was going around the law:
A witness must certify that a specific voter completed an absentee ballot. When the witness information is missing from the ballot envelope, local election officials usually try to contact the voter so he or she can cast a new ballot that meets the requirement. If the problem can’t be rectified, the ballot isn’t counted.
But the state board told county officials voters could simply sign an affidavit attesting that they had mailed the ballot, forgoing the witness requirement altogether.
The judge said he wants to meet with state elections officials about his “concern that alleged compliance with this court’s order is resulting in the elimination of a duly-enacted statute requiring a witness to an absentee ballot.”
In a separate legal challenge, Republicans and President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign are suing to block a consent decree negotiated between Democrats on the elections board and Democrats in activist organizations that sued the state.
The consent decree significantly relaxes the rules around mail-in voting.
Two Republicans resigned from the elections board in protest at the consent decree.
“They are suing to move Election Day even further out so they can harvest ballots after the polls close to steal the election for Joe Biden,” Trump deputy campaign manager Justin Clark said in a statement. “The judge on this case has a choice to make: Side with collusion and rig this election, or uphold the rule of law and protect every North Carolinian’s right to vote.”
Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest fired off a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Thursday, asking for a federal investigation into “the collusive attack on the integrity of North Carolina’s elections.”
“The fact that an executive agency would dare enter into an agreement that attempts to make substantial changes to our election law less than six weeks before the election raises serious concerns about the motives of all involved. It also raises serious legal concerns,” Forest wrote.
In his resignation letter, board member David Black — who originally voted in favor of the measure — said he did not understand at least one key element of the settlement proposal: How it would change the “cure” process of correcting and accepting mail-in absentee ballots that arrive without a witness signature.
State law requires that signature, and without it, a voter must cast another ballot to have his or her vote count.
The proposed settlement would change that to let the voter sign an affidavit, forgoing the witness signature.
“It was not my understanding that the cure would simply mean an affidavit, or cure document, would be sent to the voter for a confirmation that this ballot was their own,” Black said.