The North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) is defending the legitimacy of new rules and guidance against challenges that they are not consistent with election law.

The NCSBE received a joint request for a declaratory ruling earlier this week from the RNC, NRCC, and NCOP regarding recently adopted rules and updated guidance concerning voter ID and absentee ballot processes.

The NCSBE is expected to address the parties’ request in writing within 30 days, in keeping with North Carolina law regarding declaratory rulings.

Earlier this year, the NCSBE passed rules regarding Voter ID and issued revised rules interpreting various laws governing absentee ballots. According to Republicans, those rules are not consistent with current state laws requiring a specific handling of absentee ballots. 

Republicans claim the guidance issued by NCSBE runs afoul of state law when it advises county elections boards that absentee ballots do not need to be properly returned in container-return envelopes, which are sealed, in order to count.

They are also challenging the lose administration of Voter ID laws, calling into question what they perceive as an ‘anything goes’ process that undermines the spirit of the law.

In response to the charges from Republicans, NCSBE spokesman Patrick Gannon emphasized to Carolina Journal that the administrative rule was not implemented unilaterally by the executive director, but by the full State Board of Elections after being given approval by other official bodies before issuance. 

“The administrative rule at issue was adopted by the full Board of Elections, not its executive director, and was approved by the Rules Review Commission,” stated Gannon. “The memo at issue was issued by the executive director of the State Board, relying on guidance from legal counsel and upon the agreement of the full State Board of Elections.”

In addition to the memo being approved from NCSBE attorneys, Gannon says that the rule in question was also the subject of extensive discussions between NCSBE attorneys and the Rules Review Commission.

Records provided by the NCBSE show correspondence from March of this year between NCSBE General Counsel Paul Cox and Rules Review Commission Chairman William Peaslee, working to address clarifying questions from the commission and to ensure consistency with state and federal law.

“Bill – thanks for your additional feedback. Below are some additional responses from the agency and attached are the two rules, revised accordingly,” reads an email from Cox to Chairman Peaslee. After some consultation, the NC Rules Review Commission ultimately approved of the updated guidance and rule.

Gannon suggested the NCSBE is confident, through the work of agency attorneys and in consultation with the Rules Review Commission, that the changes made are consistent with election law requirements.

Per state statute, the NCSBE has 30 days to respond in writing to the request for a declaratory ruling.