Report: Federal judge rebukes North Carolina’s attempt to change election rules

FPI / October 4, 2020

U S. District Court Judge William Osteen on Sept. 30 shot down an effort by North Carolina Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper to drastically change state election law by no longer requiring a witness signature for absentee ballots and extending the allowable receipt of absentee ballots to nine days after the Nov. 3 election, a report said.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, left, and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

On Aug. 4, Osteen had in a separate case ruled against ending the requirement for a witness signature on absentee ballots.

“Yet North Carolina Democrat Attorney General Josh Stein and Gov. Cooper’s North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) Director Karen Brinson Bell flagrantly ignored or ‘misinterpreted’ Osteen’s ruling as allowing the witness signature to be dropped,” Mike Scruggs reported for the Asheville Tribune.

“Judge Osteen took harsh exception to their interpretation and was also deeply critical of making major election rule changes within six weeks of the Nov. 3 election. Osteen’s attention to these abuses was also aroused by a lawsuit filed by the NCGOP, the Trump Campaign, and several prominent Republican lawmakers.”

According to NCGOP Chairman Michael Whatley, Osteen’s Sept. 30 order confirmed that “Stein and Gov. Cooper’s [NCSBE] Executive Director Bell ignored duly enacted North Carolina election law in an attempt to change absentee ballot protections after voting has already begun. Two days before Judge Osteen’s stinging rebuke of Bell and Stein, Bell had sent an email to county boards claiming authority to fire local election board members who did not comply with what many thought correctly to be an unconstitutional order.”

As of Friday, North Carolina election boards around the state had already mailed out over 600,000 absentee ballots.

Scruggs reported that, on Sept. 22, less than six weeks before the Nov. 3 election, “the NCSBE issued controversial changes regarding absentee ballots that weaken the prevention of voter fraud by eliminating the witness signature provision and extending the date of receipt to Nov. 12. Implementation was rushed through without consultation with the Republican dominated North Carolina General Assembly. It still had to be approved by a Democrat dominated panel of North Carolina judges, but absentee ballots without witness signatures were being set aside anticipating judicial approval. Since Judge Osteen’s rebuke, they are still being set aside pending further court rulings. The NCSBE policies implemented on Sept. 22 were justified (excused) as a ‘compromise’ to settle a suit against the state by Democratic Party friendly plaintiff North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans.”

The two Republican members of the NCSBE resigned on Sept. 23, saying they had been misled on several facts and issues.

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, the Republican candidate running against Cooper on Nov. 3, called the Sept. 22 changes unconstitutional “collusion” which was intended “to bend North Carolina’s election laws to favor the candidates and agendas of the Democratic Party in November and afterwards.”

Cooper has “fought tooth-and-nail against the Board of Elections being an independent body rather than a partisan body under his complete control,” Forest said in a Sept. 24 letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr requesting an investigation.

“The fact that an executive agency would dare enter into an agreement that attempts to make substantial changes into our election law less than six weeks before the election raises serious concerns about the motives of all involved. It also raises serious legal concerns,” Forest wrote.

FPI, Free Press International

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