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
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.