As you’ve probably heard by now, a series of state and federal judges has now approved a court settlement that will allow ballots cast by mail in our state to be counted if they’re postmarked by Election Day and received by Nov. 12.
Late yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit sitting en banc ruled that the extension of time was permissible. The vote to reject the position argued by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore that the votes should not be counted was 12-3.
As Judge James Wynn wrote for the majority:
“There is no irreparable harm from a ballot extension: again, everyone must submit their ballot by the same date. The extension merely allows more lawfully cast ballots to be counted, in the event there are any delays precipitated by an avalanche of mail-in ballots.” (Emphasis in the original.)
Three judges appointed by President Trump joined the majority.
Of course, the very fact that this issue is even the subject of great debate and consternation serves as a remarkable commentary on the views of North Carolina’s conservative legislative leaders. Simply put: what in the heck are they afraid of? Why doesn’t it make sense to count all the mailed ballots that are cast by Election Day — especially at this moment in which the Postal Service is struggling mightily?
After all, courts intervene in elections all the time to make sure everyone gets a chance to vote. During just about every election a judge has to order certain precincts to stay open late because of machine malfunctions or some other snafu — often at the behest of Republican politicians and candidates. What’s the difference here?
Allowing more time won’t cause confusion — it will assure that every vote gets counted and that officials have time to get things completely right. Final, official results aren’t normally certified until several days after the election anyway.
And don’t tell us that the Berger-Moore effort to prevent the state from counting all the votes is about “the integrity of the lawmaking process.” No, these two men long ago forfeited their right to ever make such an argument during their many years of running roughshod over dissenting lawmakers at the General Assembly. Whether they were shutting down debate time and again or even purporting to pass a budget veto override while nearly every Democratic member was out of the House chamber, we’ve seen what these two men really think about the integrity of the legislative process.
The bottom line: The Court of Appeals’ ruling is a victory for democracy and the rights of all North Carolina voters of all political parties.