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Trump Campaign Sues Over Ballot Changes09/27 11:19


   RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- President Donald Trump's campaign committee and the 
Republican National Committee sued Saturday to block North Carolina election 
officials from enforcing rule changes that could boost the number of ballots 
counted in the presidential battleground state.

   The Republicans' lawsuit claims a new system adopted by the State Board of 
Elections will allow for absentee ballots to be cast late and without proper 
witness verification, "which invites fraud, coercion, theft, and otherwise 
illegitimate voting."

   The elections board on Tuesday issued new guidance allowing mail-in absentee 
ballots with deficient information to be fixed without forcing the voter to 
fill out a new blank ballot for November's general election.

   The change means absentee voters who don't provide complete information on 
their envelope about a witness who saw them fill out the ballot won't have to 
complete a new ballot and locate another witness. A voter will just have to 
turn in an affidavit confirming they filled out the original ballot.

   North Carolina is one of eight states with witness and or notary public 
requirements for absentee ballots, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. 
North Carolina General Assembly leaders announced late Saturday they had also 
filed a similar lawsuit in federal court against board members. They asked a 
judge to block enforcement of the board's absentee ballot alterations, which 
they contend would wrest away from the legislature its constitutional job to 
set the rules for federal elections.

   The national Republicans' federal lawsuit claims the state elections board 
made a partisan "backroom deal" that undermines state lawmakers' 
"carefully-considered, balanced structure of election laws." The suit claims 
the board's guidance usurps a law that says a ballot may only be accepted if it 
has a witness signature on it.

   "While touted as allowing greater access to voters during the current 
pandemic --- an objective already addressed in recent months by the General 
Assembly --- the actual effect is to undermine protections that help ensure the 
upcoming election will be not only safe and accessible but secure, fair, and 
credible," the suit says.

   The lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign and the RNC also accuses the board 
of trying to override state law in saying that ballots postmarked on or before 
Election Day can be counted if they are received within nine days of the 
election instead of the three days prescribed by law.

   The state elections board and its chairman, Damon Circosta, are among the 
defendants named in the lawsuit. The plaintiffs also include two Republican 
congressmen from North Carolina, U.S. Reps. Greg Murphy and Dan Bishop.

   Circosta didn't immediately respond Saturday evening to text messages 
seeking a response to the lawsuits. Later Saturday, Board spokesperson Patrick 
Gannon said the board was reviewing the litigation.

   North Carolina and other states expect a major surge in absentee voting for 
the Nov. 3 election amid the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 1 million voters in 
North Carolina already had requested an absentee ballot as of Sept. 24 and that 
nearly 240,00 completed ballots had already been returned, the lawsuit says.

   The state elections board's new guidance to county boards means residents 
won't be forced to start over from scratch in casting votes if a witness fails 
to sign or provide an address on the envelope containing their absentee ballot. 
The guidance means that the ballot now won't be considered "spoiled," and the 
voter will be sent an affidavit to sign to rectify the problem.

   Issues with deficient witness information on mail-in ballots have 
disproportionately affected Black voters. Ballots cast by African Americans 
account for about 43 percent of those classified as having incomplete witness 
information, according to state elections data earlier in the week. Yet Black 
residents account for 16 percent of overall ballots returned.

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