Defending Democracy, News

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.

Defending Democracy

Plan on taking part in early voting? Here are 10 tips you need to know.

It’s hard to believe, but early in-person voting for the general election is finally here! Eligible North Carolina voters can cast their ballots Thursday, October 15 – Saturday, October 31.

To ensure, things run as smoothly and safely as possible over the next two weeks, the NC Board of Elections offers the following tips:

1.  Voters may cast a ballot at any early voting site in their county. For sites and hours, use the One-Stop Early Voting Site Search tool: https://vt.ncsbe.gov/ossite. All 100 counties will offer weekend voting options throughout early voting.

2. Sample ballots are available through the Voter Search tool: https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup. For more information on judicial candidates, view the State Board’s Judicial Voter Guide: https://www.ncsbe.gov/mailers/2020/judicial-voter-guide. Knowing your candidate choices in advance and being familiar with the ballot will help your voting experience go more quickly.

3. Individuals who missed the regular voter registration deadline may register and vote at the same time during the early voting period. Same-day registrants must attest to their eligibility and provide proof of where they live. For more information, visit https://www.ncsbe.gov/voting/vote-early-person. Individuals who missed the regular voter registration deadline may not register to vote by mail. Their only option at this point is to register in-person at an early voting site in their county.

4. Voters are strongly encouraged to wear masks, use hand sanitizer and adhere to social distancing guidelines at the polling place. For more COVID-19 precautions at voting sites, visit https://www.ncsbe.gov/voting/voting-and-coronavirus.

5. Voters who receive an absentee ballot by mail may deliver their completed ballot to an election official at an early voting site in their county. Ballots will be kept securely and delivered to the county board of elections for processing.

6. Voters who requested an absentee ballot but have not yet returned it may vote in person during the early voting period or on Election Day, November 3. Voters may discard the by-mail ballot and do not need to bring it to a voting site.

7. To avoid long lines, voters should keep in mind that the busiest early voting days typically are the first and last days of early voting. Voters may find shorter lines during regular business hours.

8. The State Board asks that all voters respect the rights of others to participate in the election. Intimidating any voter is a crime. Voters who feel harassed or intimidated should notify an election official immediately.

9. Voters at one-stop early voting sites are entitled to the same assistance as voters at a voting place on Election Day. Curbside voting is available for eligible individuals at all early voting sites. For more information, visit https://www.ncsbe.gov/voting/help-voters-disabilities/curbside-voting.

10. North Carolina law prohibits photographing or videotaping voted ballots. Voters may use electronic devices in the voting booth to access a slate card or candidate information, provided they don’t use the devices to communicate with anyone or take photographs of their ballot.

More than 505,000 North Carolinians have already voted absentee by mail.

Defending Democracy, News

Deadline to register to vote in this election fast approaching

If you want to vote in this year’s election, but are not registered yet, you face a major deadline this week.

Friday is the regular voter registration deadline in North Carolina.

“It’s easy, and there’s still time, either through the regular process or at any one-stop early voting location in your county,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections.

The NC State Board of Elections advises:

Complete a North Carolina Voter Registration Application and return it to their county board of elections office

  • by 5 p.m. October 9. If an application is received after the deadline, it will be timely if it is postmarked on or before October 9. If the postmark is missing or unclear, the application will be processed if it is received in the mail no later than 20 days before the election. Otherwise, the application will not be processed until after the election. If submitted by fax or email, the application must be received by 5 p.m. October 9, and a hard copy of the document delivered to the county board by 20 days before the election.
  • Existing NC Division of Motor Vehicles’ customers may register to vote online.

 

If you miss this Friday’s deadline, you have one more chance to vote.

Individuals can register and vote at the same time during the one-stop early voting period, which runs October 15-31.

Wondering where those early voting sites are? You can find them listed by county here.

As of Tuesday, 420,695 North Carolinians have already cast their absentee ballots.

Defending Democracy, News

Democracy NC: Voting-by-mail numbers for NC are shattering records

In case you missed it, be sure to check out the recent report from analysts at Democracy North Carolina about the record-shattering number of requests for mail-in ballots being submitted by North Carolina voters. This is from the report, which also features several useful graphics and numerous specific details related to race, geography and party:

As of Sept. 8, about 1 in 10 registered voters in North Carolina had requested an absentee mail in ballot. Those 688,980 requests, accounted for almost three times the total number of absentee ballots requested in the 2016 General Election, and more than 15 times the number of absentee ballots requested at the same point in the 2016 Election cycle.

Among the other highlights from the report:

  • Since absentee mail in ballots are historically used by more white North Carolina voters than voters of color, the increase in absentee ballot requests for voters of color is especially dramatic. White voters made up 82% of the absentee ballot requests in the 2016 General election, but only make up 69% of the requests in the 2020 cycle so far.
  • Based on ethnicity, Latinx voters have already requested more than four times the total number of absentee ballots requested by Latinx voters in the 2016 Election, and 24 times the number of ballots requested at this point in 2016.
  • In the 2016 cycle, 39% of absentee ballots requests were made by Republicans, followed by 32% by Democrats, and 29% by Unaffiliated voters. This year so far, the patterns are dramatically different: 52% of absentee requests are by Democrats, 16% by Republicans, and 31% by Unaffiliated Voters.
    One in seven registered Democrats have already requested an absentee ballot, compared to about 1 in 10 Green Party voters and unaffiliated voters, 1 in 20 Republicans and Libertarians, and 1 in 30 Constitution voters.
  • Broadly, the most populous counties are leading the number of absentee ballot requests, with Wake, Mecklenburg, Durham, Guilford, Buncombe and Forsyth in the lead for the number of ballots requested. A stunning 20% of Orange County’s registered voters (1 in 5) have requested an absentee ballot by mail, as have 18% of Chatham voters, 16% of Durham voters, and 15% of Wake voters. 18 counties have received requests from 10% or more of the registered voters in the county.

Click here to explore “Democracy NC analysis: 1 in 10 NC voters, 1 in 7 Dems have already requested by-mail ballots.”

Click here to visit the State Board of Elections and request a mail-in ballot.

Defending Democracy, News

Common Cause NC files complaint calling for investigation of DeJoy’s alleged ‘straw donor’ scheme

As was noted in this post on Monday, one of the big political revelations of recent days involves the alleged illegal laundering of campaign contributions in years past by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy (pictured at left in a screenshot taken during recent online congressional testimony) via the North Carolina-based company he long ran before joining the Trump administration.

As the Washington Post reported:

Five people who worked for DeJoy’s former business, New Breed Logistics, say they were urged by DeJoy’s aides or by the chief executive himself to write checks and attend fundraisers at his 15,000-square-foot gated mansion beside a Greensboro, N.C., country club. There, events for Republicans running for the White House and Congress routinely fetched $100,000 or more apiece.

Two other employees familiar with New Breed’s financial and payroll systems said DeJoy would instruct that bonus payments to staffers be boosted to help defray the cost of their contributions, an arrangement that would be unlawful.

Today, in response to this troubling news, advocates at Common Cause North Carolina have filed complaints demanding formal, public investigations. This is from a release the group distributed today:

RALEIGH – U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy should be investigated immediately for an alleged campaign donation scheme that may have violated North Carolina law, according to a complaint filed today by Common Cause NC with the State Board of Elections and also sent to Attorney General Josh Stein requesting a criminal investigation.

While CEO of High Point, NC-based New Breed Logistics from 2003-2014, DeJoy pressured employees of his company to make political contributions and later reimbursed those contributions through bonuses, according to former employees recently interviewed by The Washington Post.

Such a ploy would violate North Carolina campaign finance laws, which prohibit making contributions in the name of another person, and may have been a means to illegally circumvent donation limits. State law also prohibits corporations from donating to campaigns, a provision that DeJoy may have violated by using his company’s funds to reimburse employees for making contributions to political candidates he supported.

While there is a five-year statute of limitations on federal campaign finance charges, there is no such statute of limitations in North Carolina.

The following is a statement from Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC:

“Our state’s campaign finance laws are designed to protect the fundamental integrity of our elections and guard against undue influence by self-serving megadonors and special interests. Violations of these laws undermine public trust in our democracy and must be treated with the utmost seriousness. No one is above the law, no matter the size of their bank account.

Voters deserve to know who is funding politicians’ campaigns. But straw donor ploys hide the true source of political donations and make it impossible for voters to make fully-informed choices. This troubling fundraising scheme allegedly perpetrated by Louis DeJoy has the appearance of bypassing North Carolina’s campaign finance limits in order to illicitly buy political access and curry favor with elected officials. These allegations should be thoroughly investigated and, if true, Mr. DeJoy must be held accountable.”

The full complaint filed by Common Cause NC with the State Board of Elections can be read here.

The letter to Attorney General Josh Stein can be read here.