A whirlwind of competing lawsuits and legal actions has thousands of ballots in North Carolina in limbo.
With just a few weeks left until the Oct. 27 deadline to request absentee ballots, the North Carolina State Board of Elections has no clear plan for fixing errors on voters’ mail-in ballots.
As of Oct. 4, 7,272 ballots are classified as “pending cure,” meaning there is missing information on the ballot or envelope. “Currently the cure process is being considered by the courts. We will contact you soon with more information,” county election board employees are being instructed to tell voters who call about the status of their ballot.
On Sunday, North Carolina State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson-Bell sent a memo to local boards directing them to “take no action” on ballots that come in with mistakes on the envelopes. Brinson-Bell said the decision is to avoid confusion while matters are pending in several courts. “Envelopes with deficiencies shall be kept in a secure location and shall not be considered by the county board until future notice,” according to the memo.
The North Carolina state board announced last week new rules it says make it easier for voters to fix or “cure” mail-in ballots. The changes were included in a joint settlement agreement with North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans after the group filed a lawsuit challenging several absentee voting processes.
Under the agreement, the NCSBE would allow voters who are missing witness signatures or addresses on their ballot envelope to correct the mistake by filling out an affidavit instead of completing a new ballot. The settlement also allows election boards to accept absentee ballots up to nine days after the election if they are postmarked by Nov. 3.
A county judge approved the settlement last Friday, but the next day a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order banning the NCSBE from enacting the changes.