Voting rights group report says cure process saved 20,000 votes last year, calls for permanent rule

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

North Carolina’s process of curing mail-in ballots protected nearly 20,000 from being discounted in the 2020 general election, according to a report released by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice on Thursday.

The cure process allowed voters to fix their ballots that failed to meet certain statutory requirements or vote another way. Communities of color whose absentee ballots have been rejected at a disproportionate rate are among the chief beneficiaries of the process, the report stated. Ballots with deficiencies in notarization, signature and incomplete witnesses information accounted for nearly 40% of discarded ballots in the general election last year. Late ballots cannot be cured.

The State Board of Elections issued a new memo in June 2021 requiring county boards to implement a cure process in all future elections.

However, it is only in place without a legislative guarantee and dependent upon the preliminary injunction relief granted by federal courts.

Black and Latinx voters had 19% and 16%, respectively, of total ballots rejected in the March 2020 primary, higher than the overall average of 15%. In June of 2020, voting rights groups sued the board and demanded that the agency establish a uniform mechanism for the cure process.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice represented the plaintiffs. The State Board of Elections settled in August and then issued the guidance on the cure and notification measures for ballots with deficiencies.

“As we continue to fight for a permanent cure process for mail-in ballot envelopes, we celebrate the tens of thousands of North Carolina voters empowered to make their voices heard in 2020 as a result of our lawsuit,” said Hilary Harris Klein, counsel for the group’s voting rights program and a co-author of the report.

Eighteen states have laws that give voters the opportunity to correct their ballots in cases of missing signature or signature discrepancy, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“Recent elections proved that interest in voting by mail has never been greater.” Klein said in the press release. “We know demanding due process to correct mail-in voting issues will only save more votes, protect more voters, and strengthen our democracy.”

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