Judge orders North Carolina to revise absentee ballot rules

County boards of elections get guidance following federal court orders to revise absentee ballot rules in N.C.

Judge rules on fixing ballot issues

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WBTV) - A federal judge has ordered North Carolina elections officials to update absentee voting rules to ensure that voters prove they have had someone witness their ballot. Voters with issues on their ballot will now be notified by the board elections, following guidance provided after the judge’s ruling.

Staff at the state board of elections says the rulings left almost all changes made to absentee ballot regulations in place, including extended time to accept absentee ballots and additional drop off options.

Any absentee ballot missing a witness signatures will be rejected. With new clarification Thursday, the board of elections will start notifying the thousands of people whose ballots need to be fixed.

Here’s what you need to know if you’ve cast an absentee ballot:

  • If your ballot has been accepted – you cannot vote in person.
  • If your ballot has a problem, you’ll be notified in the coming days and given a chance to fix it or cast a new absentee ballot.
  • Anyone whose absentee ballot has not been accepted can vote in-person, but their absentee ballot will no longer count.

Judge William Osteen issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday ordering state officials to rewrite a directive issued in late September that allowed voters to fix a lack of a witness signature by returning an affidavit.

However, he said he wouldn’t block that kind of fix for small errors such as an incomplete witness address. In announcing the order – the judge did rule that elections officials can allow voters to fix other problems – including incomplete witness information or a signature in the wrong spot.

Ballots with incomplete witness info and other deficiencies have been in limbo since at least Oct. 3.

This will impact thousands of people who have cast an absentee ballot in North Carolina.

This court fight has affected more than 11,000 voters whose ballots have a problem.

Copyright 2020 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report.