After two court rulings this past week, absentee voting rules remain in limbo. On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen ruled that the State Board of Elections cannot accept mail-in ballots without a witness signature on the envelope. Osteen’s ruling let stand other proposed rules changes that were part of a settlement approved by the Board of Elections in September. These were accepted by a state judge on October 2, and include extending to November 12 the deadline for receiving absentee ballots that were postmarked by 5 PM on November 3. There are currently about 10,000 absentee ballots with identified envelope problems that are in limbo pending resolution in the courts. Then on Thursday, a NC Appeals court stayed the entire settlement until they can hear arguments this week. Republicans, who are behind the lawsuits, declared Friday that we should just “stop the chaos,” but North Carolina state Senate leader Phil Berger also indicated that taking the case to a higher court was a possibility.
Nearly 1.43 million votes had been cast in North Carolina by Sunday morning, amounting to more than 19% of the state’s registered voters. Early in-person voting runs through October 31, and you can find your voting locations here. You can still request absentee ballots through 5 PM on October 27, although some county Boards of Elections report up to 15-day backlogs in fulfilling new requests. If you have an absentee ballot, its return must be postmarked by 5 PM on November 3.
State Board of Elections director Karen Brinson Bell sent a memo advising county election officials that uniformed law enforcement officers should not be stationed at polling sites, spelling out steps to minimize the potential for voter intimidation during an increasingly tense election. (The memo was later revised to allow uniformed, unarmed private security guards outside polling sites but not inside the voting enclosure.) She supported partnerships and information sharing with local law enforcement. In response, multiple Republican leaders accused Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration of being anti-police.
On Tuesday North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein filed a lawsuit in Cumberland County Superior Court against DuPont and Chemours for allegedly covering up that they were releasing harmful chemicals into the air and drinking water. The chemicals, perfluorinated compounds, or PFAS, are known to cause multiple types of cancer and other health conditions. The suit seeks to hold the two companies responsible for damages to North Carolina’s natural resources, including drinking water.