Federal judge to weigh in on North Carolina absentee ballot procedures


FILE – In this Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, file photo, stacks of ballot envelopes waiting to be mailed are seen at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — A federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments over whether North Carolina is providing voters sufficient opportunity to fix absentee ballots that arrive without full information on who witnessed it.

U.S. District Judge William Osteen was holding a hearing on Wednesday afternoon concerning a trio of lawsuits filed over how the state handles absentee ballots.

A key issue is the requirement in state law that people who cast absentee ballots have it witnessed by another adult.

Late last month, the State Board of Elections had agreed to allow voters to fix problems with incomplete witness info by sending in an affidavit and not starting a new ballot from scratch and having it witnessed again. But that change was temporarily halted by a different federal judge, who sent two cases brought by GOP leaders to Osteen.

Osteen was already presiding over a separate case brought by voting rights activists who argued that the state’s absentee ballot rules were too restrictive for voters coping with the coronavirus pandemic.

In August, Osteen asked the state to ensure voters have a fair process to fix errors on their ballots. But he said in court papers last week that he has concerns that the process put in place by the state would essentially eliminate the one-witness requirement.

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