A three-judge panel’s decision last week to halt November ballot production was made because of the complexity of the cases before them and the shortness of time they had to review them.
The panel ordered Wednesday that the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement pause the ballot printing process until Sept. 1 or until such time they make a decision or an appellate court weighs in about two challenges over constitutional amendment language.
Absentee voting is set to begin Sept. 7, but three weeks is the minimum amount of time needed to produce all ballot proofs, receive ballot approvals and print and deliver ballots. The Sept. 1 date is the minimum deadline that must be met to comply with federal law, which requires absentee voting begin 45 days before the election.
In the temporary order released Monday, the three judges outline why they made their decision and specify the details of their decision.
“It would not serve the public interest for the Board to begin preparing, printing, and testing the ballots before this court enters its ultimate order on the parties’ motions,” the document states. “If the Board began preparing ballots, then the Court later entered an order that affected the content of the ballot, the Board would be required to restart its process, wasting the public resources that had been spent on the process before that time.”
The court’s temporary order expires at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Friday, Aug. 23. If the judges make a more permanent order in the case, the temporary order will stay in effect until three business days after the court’s ultimate order date of entry. The temporary order can be negated by another order by the same court or the appellate court.
While the order is in effect, the State Board or anyone working for or with them shall not prepare ballots, print ballots or authorize anyone or any entity to prepare or print ballots. They also cannot take any action to authorize or approve any language to be placed on the official ballot for the November election.
The order stems from two lawsuits filed by Gov. Roy Cooper and the North Carolina NAACP and Clean Air Carolina, respectively. Cooper challenged the ballot questions over two constitutional amendments that interfere with the separation of powers, and the two organizations challenged the same two amendments, in addition to one requiring a photo identification to vote and another that caps the state income tax at seven percent.
Read the full temporary order below.