North Carolina General Assembly, national GOP leaders file suit against State Board of Elections
NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) - With the concerns some have over the impact that absentee ballots could have in November still at the forefront of the election, Republican leaders are taking the matter in North Carolina to the courts just 36 days before Election Day.
North Carolina is one of eight states that have witness or notary public requirements for absentee ballots, but new guidance issued by the State Board of Elections just last week has lead to multiple lawsuits by Republican leaders at both a national and state level, saying the new guidance is unconstitutional, and only increases the likelihood of fraud.
“We don’t need to make the kinds of changes that make it more likely that legal votes will get canceled out by inappropriate votes,” says North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger.
Senator Berger says that voters only have to look back as far as 2018 when a Congressional election was overturned in North Carolina because of absentee voter fraud.
“This actually makes things even worse than they were in 2018, and just invites fraud,” Berger adds.
That’s why Berger, on behalf of the State Senate, and Speaker Tim Moore, on behalf of the State House, filed the lawsuit over the weekend.
For Berger and his fellow lawmakers, that 2018 election is what led the General Assembly to make changes to improve the integrity of the state’s election process.
Now, he says, the Board of Elections is trying to undermine federal law.
“They don’t have the right to make that call, because they aren’t the State Legislature,” Berger explains.
At the heart of the new guidance is a change that says voters who incorrectly submit their absentee ballot will not have to submit a new ballot, they will only be required to turn in an affidavit confirming they filled out the original ballot.
“We’ve always contacted voters when something was wrong with a mail-in ballot, even as the rules have changed,” says Craven County Board of Elections Director Meloni Wray.
Wray says that a voter’s witness must be at least 18-years old, but cannot be a person who is a candidate on the ballot, or a hospital, clinic, nursing home, or adult care worker for a patient or resident in such places.
Of the more than 9,000 absentee ballots already mailed out in Craven County, over 3,100 have already been returned.
Roughly 125 have been filled out incorrectly and required an affidavit from the voter.
But changing the rules mid-election is where some lawmakers draw their concerns.
“We just feel like you can’t go in and change law without going through the proper channels,” says Republican State Representative Chris Humphrey.
President Trump and national Republican leaders agree.
The Republican National Committee filed a similar lawsuit of their own against the North Carolina Board of Elections this weekend.
The President took to Twitter on Monday to air his grievances about the mail-in process, saying, “The Ballots being returned to States cannot be accurately counted. Many things are already going very wrong!”
Berger says that he and the North Carolina General Assembly did not communicate with national leaders about filing the suits.
As of September 24 more than one million voters in North Carolina had already requested mail-in ballots, with more than 240,000 already having been returned, according to the lawsuit.
The State Board of Elections says their attorneys are reviewing the cases, and they will provide more information as soon as possible.
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