Hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots have been cast by North Carolina voters, early voting has started across the state and with Election Day a little more than two weeks away, nobody knows what the rules are for absentee ballots.
Three Republican state senators who co-chair the NC Senate Elections Committee, Sens. Warren Daniel (R-Burke), Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) and Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus), in a joint statement offered a simple solution. “For the sake of election integrity, just keep the election rules as they existed before voting started and stop this chaos.
Guilford County Board of Elections member and President of the North Carolina NAACP Rev. Anthony Spears appears to agree. He is quoted in the press release stating, “I fault the state board. People are losing confidence. People are losing trust in the election cycle.”
The whole matter of how to handle absentee ballots has been ruled on in North Carolina Superior Court and that ruling overruled by two federal District Court judges.
One of the big issues is whether or not an absentee ballot has to be signed by a witness, as state law requires. The NC State Board of Elections, with all members appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper, has said, no, it doesn’t.
And both federal District Court judges have ruled that the appointed NC Sttae Board of Elections cannot overrule the state legislature.
The legislature in June, by a bipartisan vote, made changes to the election laws due to the coronavirus. It reduced the number of witness signatures from two to one, but the legislature did not eliminate the witness signature entirely as the NC State Board of Elections has been trying to do.
The NC Executive Director of Elections Karen Brinson Bell attempted to have the signature requirement removed by redefining “natural disaster” and assuming authority under the “Emergency Powers Act.” That attempt was unanimously rejected by the North Carolina Rules Review Commission.
Then came the attempt after voting had already started to enter into a “consent agreement” to settle a lawsuit.
The results, so far, have been a flurry of memos from the Bell with different directions on how to handle absentee ballots. Currently, absentee ballots without a witness signature or any other “deficiency” on the return envelope are on hold, which means people who sent them in are not being notified that they need to either fix their ballot or send in a new ballot and time is running out.