“Federal judge strikes down change to NC absentee ballot witness requirement”

WRAL:

A federal judge on Wednesday warned the State Board of Elections that recent changes to requirements for absentee mail-in voting in North Carolina do not have his approval.

Those changes, outlined in a Sept. 22 memo from the state board to county elections directors and confirmed again Monday in an email from the state board’s attorney to county boards, were represented as being responsive to changes required by U.S. District Judge William Osteen’s ruling in a lawsuit brought by Democracy North Carolina.

Osteen pushed back on that representation Wednesday, however, taking sharp exception to the board’s changes on witness requirements for absentee ballots.

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.ADVERTISING

“Nothing about this court’s preliminary injunction order can or should be construed as finding that the failure of a witness to sign the application and certificate as a witness is a deficiency which may be cured with a certification after the ballot has been returned,” Osteen wrote in his order Wednesday.

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 elimination of a duly-enacted statute requiring a witness to an absentee ballot.”

And now Republican legislative leaders have moved to block the settlement.

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