AG Stein, Board of Elections Abandon Effort to Rewrite Absentee Ballot Witness Law
Ballot deadline still in dispute
Berger: “This chaos was avoidable, but thankfully we can now move on”
Raleigh, N.C. — Attorney General Josh Stein and Gov. Cooper’s N.C. State Board of Elections today agreed to abandon their effort to rewrite state election laws governing absentee ballot witnesses.
The decision effectively returns North Carolina’s absentee ballot witness requirement to what existed before Attorney General Stein and the Board secretly “settled” a lawsuit with Democratic Party super-lawyer Marc Elias to change the law, which a federal judge rebuked as “improper,” “unacceptable,” and a move which “appear[s] to ignore the rule of law.”
For weeks, legislative leaders have asked Gov. Cooper’s Board of Elections and Attorney General Stein to drop the secretive settlement and abide by the election laws passed by bipartisan supermajorities months ago.
Today, Attorney General Stein and the Board finally agreed to abandon their rewrite of the absentee ballot witness law.
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said, “The chaos over the past month was entirely avoidable. Attorney General Stein and Gov. Cooper’s Board of Elections rewrote absentee ballot laws after voting had already started. Thankfully, they’ve abandoned their attempt to change the witness requirement law, and we can now move on with allowing voters to fix their absentee ballots.”
Ballot Receipt Deadline Remains in Dispute
One other tenet of the secretive settlement remains in dispute: the deadline by which ballots must be received to count after Election Day.
State law requires ballots to be received no later than three days after Election Day. But following the secret negotiations with Gov. Cooper’s former attorney Marc Elias, the Board announced that it would violate state law and extend the ballot deadline to nine days.
Attorney General Stein has refused to comply with state law by producing public records surrounding the secretive negotiations with Elias.
In a blistering opinion last week, Federal Judge William Osteen described the Board’s action as “likely unconstitutional” and concluded that it “should be enjoined.” Judge Osteen did not enjoin the act, though, because he believed he did not have the power to do so.
Legislative leaders have asked the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to enforce Judge Osteen’s conclusion that the extension deadline “should be enjoined” because it is “likely unconstitutional.”
The N.C. Court of Appeals has already blocked the extension for now.
Right now, the ballot receipt deadline is still three days after Election Day. The Board of Elections has not implemented its secretive and unconstitutional settlement agreement. Therefore, an injunction would maintain the status quo and avoid changing election rules after the election has already begun.