Court backs GOP on NC poll watchers, sides with elections board on ballot deadline | Eastern North Carolina Now | On Oct. 13, the Wake County Superior Court ruled in favor of Republicans that at-large poll observers would have more flexibility than precinct-specific observers, but sided with the state’s board of elections that the absentee ballot deadline could be moved to a later date

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    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal. The author of this post is David Larson.

    On Oct. 13, the Wake County Superior Court ruled in favor of Republicans that at-large poll observers would have more flexibility than precinct-specific observers, but sided with the state's board of elections that the absentee ballot deadline could be moved to a later date due to a holiday falling on the statutory deadline.

    "The RNC, NCGOP, and Clay County GOP Chairman sued the North Carolina Board of Elections because North Carolinians deserve transparency at the ballot box," said RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel in a press statement. "This legal victory protects the rights of poll watchers and underscores the Republican Party's commitment to free, fair, and transparent elections in the Tar Heel State. As midterms approach, we will continue our fight to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat in North Carolina and nationwide."

    The lawsuit, filed in September by Republicans against the N.C. State Board of Elections (NCSBE), sought to ensure that "at-large" poll observers would not be bound by the rule that requires site-specific poll watchers to be in place four hours before being relieved by a new observer. Being bound to one precinct for this long, they argued, would negate the point of these at-large observers, who are meant to have the flexibility to go from site to site.

    Republicans were successful in arguing this portion of the suit, but on the second question in the lawsuit - whether the NCSBE could move the date by which absentee ballots are accepted - the judge sided with the NCSBE that they were within the law to move the date to the following Monday due to the Friday Nov. 11 Veterans Day holiday.

    In an earlier statement to Carolina Journal, Patrick Gannon, the NCSBE's public information director, said that "The legislature did that [allowed the date to be moved] by enacting GS 103-5. See Numbered Memo 2022-09, which explains why the law requires the receipt of absentee ballots on November 14, as November 11 is a state and federal holiday, when mail is not delivered. The same rule/deadline applied under a different administration in 2016."

    In response to the court's decision, Gannon told Carolina Journal on Oct. 14, "We are grateful that the judge denied the plaintiffs' request to shorten the absentee ballot deadline. That could have resulted in thousands of eligible voters being disenfranchised, because mail is not delivered on Veterans Day. The county boards of elections will, of course, abide by the judge's ruling tweaking the replacement procedure for party observers. That is a polling place management issue that our bipartisan poll workers can be trusted to handle."
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