The State Board of Elections on Tuesday announced changes to the absentee voting process to make it easier for a voter to fix problems with their absentee ballot.
The changes were included in a joint motion asking the court to approve a settlement with plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans. The lawsuit challenged various absentee voting processes in North Carolina.
In the joint motion filed Tuesday in Wake County Superior Court, the parties agree that the witness requirement for absentee voters will remain in place. The witness must fill out required fields on the ballot return envelope, including their name, address and signature.
The State Board will allow a voter whose witness does not fill out required fields on the envelope to correct that mistake through an affidavit of the voter. Numbered Memo 2020-19, updated and reissued Tuesday, describes this process.
Under the agreement, the following issues can be cured by the voter completing and returning an affidavit sent to them by their county board of elections:
- 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
- Witness or assistant did not sign
- Witness or assistant signed on the wrong line
So far in the 2020 general election, incomplete witness information is the main problem with absentee ballot envelopes. Previous State Board guidance required those voters to cast a new ballot.
Under the joint motion, the plaintiffs agree not to continue to pursue additional changes they had sought, including the elimination of the absentee witness requirement, a requirement that boards of elections pay for return postage, and the lifting of prohibitions on who can assist with and deliver absentee request forms.
“Voters deserve certainty. Our board, both Democrats and Republicans, agreed unanimously to make these commonsense changes to our process amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Damon Circosta, State Board chair. “We have ensured that our election process is secure and accessible.”
The joint motion, if approved by the court, would also extend the date that county boards will accept ballots by mail to 5 p.m. Thursday, November 12, if they are postmarked on or before Election Day. It would also allow individuals who return ballots in person to do so without touching a written log. Instead, the person returning the ballot would orally state certain information, which the elections worker would document. If the person is not authorized to return the ballot, the elections worker would ask for more information.
Under state law, only a voter, or the voter’s near relative or legal guardian may possess and return an absentee ballot.