Voting rights group: Court’s ruling assures errors in mailed ballots will be cured

Image: NC State Board of Elections

There’s been a great deal of legal back and forth in recent weeks regarding the issue of mailed ballots in North Carolina and while there remain differences of opinion as to what’s best and constitutional when it comes to assuring that voters get a chance to cure any errors they may have made, voting rights advocates are expressing happiness at where things stand after a federal judge’s ruling earlier this week.

The following release was distributed late yesterday afternoon by advocates at Democracy North Carolina:

FEDERAL COURT RULING CLARIFIES PROCESS FOR “CURING” MAIL-IN BALLOT ERRORS IN NORTH CAROLINA

Morrisville, N.C. — North Carolina voters will now have greater clarity surrounding the mail-in ballot process, specifically on how to correct mistakes on their ballot envelope. Following a ruling in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Judge William L. Osteen upheld a previous preliminary injunction he issued in August in Democracy North Carolina et al v. North Carolina Board of Elections et al requiring county boards of elections to notify voters of possible issues with mail-in ballot envelopes and provide voters an opportunity to fix mistakes.

The plaintiffs in the case, including voting rights group Democracy North Carolina, represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Fair Elections Center, and pro bono counsel from law firm WilmerHale, asked Judge Osteen to enforce the injunction following unclear guidance from the North Carolina State Board of Elections on the notification and remedy process, known as “curing.”

Democracy North Carolina’s Executive Director Tomas Lopez called the ruling a preservation of the organization’s earlier legal victory, “As record numbers of North Carolina voters continue to take advantage of voting by mail for the first time, we know that hundreds have already had their ballots cured by a process secured by our lawsuit this summer,” said Lopez. “Today’s holding preserves this legal victory and allows for consistent absentee cure administration across North Carolina’s 100 counties, providing absentee voters with the assurances they need to trust their votes cast will be counted and any deficiencies can be resolved efficiently.”

Under the rulings, voters who cast their ballots by mail will be able to correct at least the following errors on the ballot envelope without having their ballot spoiled and starting anew:

  • Voter did not sign the voter certification,
  • Voter signed in the wrong place,
  • Witness or assistant did not print name,
  • Witness or assistant did not print address, and/or
  • Witness or assistant signed on the wrong

Ballot envelopes missing a witness signature will still be spoiled (not counted), although voters will receive notice and will be able to cast a new ballot. The State Board of Elections announced on Thursday morning that they plan to issue further clarifying guidance.

The first mail-in ballots in North Carolina were sent to voters on Sept. 4; ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 12 to be counted in the General Election.

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