Judge Halts New North Carolina Absentee Witness Info Rule

Oct 3, 2020

A federal judge has blocked updated North Carolina absentee voting rules that gave voters more leeway to fix witness problems and extended the period when elections boards could accept mailed-in ballots.

U.S. District Judge James Dever issued a temporary restraining order on Saturday, halting the updated rules that were hammered out as part of a legal settlement with voting rights advocates.

The revised rules allowed voters who returned absentee ballots with incomplete witness information to fix the problems by returning an affidavit, rather than starting the ballot over from scratch and having it witnessed again. North Carolina law requires one witness for an absentee ballot.

Dever also halted an updated rule that would have allowed county boards several more days to accept mailed-in ballots that arrived after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3.

Dever was presiding over lawsuits by state Republican legislative officials and President Donald Trump's campaign that argued the North Carolina State Board of Elections had usurped the power of lawmakers and diluted the voice of voters who'd already cast ballots before the rules were updated.

He ruled a day after the changes were approved by a state court judge as part of a consent decree.

Meanwhile, another federal judge in North Carolina is also examining absentee ballot rules as part of another lawsuit and is holding a hearing next week.