Counties Start Reaching Out To Voters To Fix Deficient Ballots
North Carolina issued new guidance Monday to allow counties to deal with more than 10,000 deficient absentee ballots that have been in limbo due to court battles over the witness requirement for voting by mail.
The State Board of Elections issued a directive telling counties to immediately resume notifying voters whose ballots arrive with a range of deficiencies on how to fix the problem or start the process over. The memo tells counties that voters who mail-in ballots without a witness signature must start a new ballot and have it witnessed again. But the state board said counties can allow voters to fix more minor problems such as a missing witness address by returning a signed affidavit.
County boards should immediately start contacting voters whose ballots were set aside pending the court battles and entering information on the ballots into a state database, said an email sent Monday by the board's general counsel, Katelyn Love.
Implementation of the state's absentee ballot witness requirement has been a key issue in lawsuits over the process. Lawyers for the state say in court papers that the instructions issued Monday are consistent with rulings so far in state and federal litigation.
The state board had told counties on Oct. 4 to set aside ballots with various deficiencies and take no further action pending proceedings in a tangle of state and federal lawsuits over absentee ballot rules.
As of Friday, the state board estimated there were at least 10,700 absentee ballots with problems that needed to be fixed, but those voters couldn't be contacted because of freezes on the absentee ballot process, according to court documents. The number of affected ballots could be much higher because counties have been under instruction not to enter the deficient ballots into the state database.
Under the revised rules, problems that can be fixed by returning an affidavit —- but without starting a new ballot over — also include a witness or voter signature in the wrong place, a missing voter signature or a failure of the witness to print his or her name.