News: Quick Takes

Judges reject attempt to block N.C. absentee witness requirement

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A three-judge panel has rejected a plea to block absentee ballot witness requirements for North Carolina’s fall election. The decision in N.C. Superior Court generated praise from the state Senate’s leader on election issues.

“The judges were right to reject this dangerous attempt to eliminate basic protections against fraudulent activity that took place in the most recent federal election, and I hope they do the same with the multiple other lawsuits filed by Washington Democrats this year,” said Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, in a news release. Hise co-chairs the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee. He also leads a Senate committee on election and redistricting issues.

The judges agreed not to grant a preliminary injunction in the case of Chambers v. State of North Carolina. Filed July 10 by four individual plaintiffs working with the American Civil Liberties Union, the case challenges an absentee ballot witness requirement in state law. The law requires one adult to witness an absentee ballot. It places limits on who can serve as a ballot witness.

The lawsuit alleges violations of four sections of the N.C. Constitution. But Judges Alma Hinton, Robert Bell, and Thomas Lock disagreed with the plaintiffs’ arguments. The judges found that “there is not a substantial likelihood” that the plaintiffs would win the case.

With more than 430,000 absentee ballots already requested this year, changing the process at this point would be a “time-, labor-, and cost-intensive process,” according to the judges. “Indeed, such a process will create delays in mailing ballots for all North Carolinians voting by absentee ballot in the 2020 general election and would likely lead to voter confusion as to the process for voting by absentee ballot.”

Hise’s news release ties this lawsuit to others challenging N.C. election laws.

“Washington Democrats sued to overturn an election security law passed with bipartisan support in the wake of widespread absentee ballot fraud uncovered in the 2018 Congressional election for North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District,” according to Hise’s news release.

“Witness signatures on absentee ballots helped uncover the fraudulent activity that took place in the 2018 Congressional election and is suspected to have taken place for many other elections before 2018,” the release continued.

“The court upheld the election integrity law that passed with broad bipartisan support after the NC-9 absentee ballot fraud,” Hise said.

Both state and federal courts have upheld the witness requirement, according to Hise’s release.