RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Absentee ballots were mailed out in North Carolina starting Friday, and Republicans are suing to stop elections officials from accepting their return later than they typically would.
The Republican National Committee, the North Carolina Republican Committee and the chair of the Clay County Republican Party filed suit on Friday after Karin Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina Board of Elections, moved the deadline for receiving the ballots to Nov. 14 because of the Veterans Day holiday.
The GOP said Bell doesn’t have the authority to extend the window to accept ballots beyond the 3-day limit defined by state election laws. With the election being on Nov. 8, that meant the deadline would’ve fallen on a postal holiday, Nov. 11, and thus removed a day of opportunity for voters.
Because that would’ve been Friday, Brinson in her directive to county election officials said the ballots would have to be received by Nov. 14, or six days after the polls closed.
The GOP in its suit says such a delay violates the rule of law and must be stopped.
A state BOE spokesperson told WGHP Capitol Correspondent Michael Hyland that this is exactly what happened with the calendar in 2016 and how the BOE responded then.
The Associated Press reported that “Bell’s memo cited another state law that says transactions set to occur on a holiday may be performed on the next day after government offices are reopen.”
But in its lawsuit, the state GOP argues the opposite, that the law doesn’t afford the BOE such authority.
“This sudden change usurps the North Carolina General Assembly’s authority to regulate “the times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives under the U.S. Constitution,” the lawsuit said.
In an email about the RNC’s lawsuit, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said this was an attempt by the board to “undermine the democratic process.” She called it “unlawful rulemaking” and related it to the rights of election observers.
“This lawsuit is the latest development in the RNC and NCGOP’s ongoing fight to preserve transparency in North Carolina elections and stop unelected bureaucrats from rewriting the law in the Tar Heel State,” she said.
A separate suit by the GOP addresses those observers and how much time they must spend at a polling place before they can be relieved by someone else. Since 2020 that has been a 4-hour shift.
There is no schedule for when either suit would be heard in Wake County Superior Court.
This year’s ballot will decide on North Carolina’s next U.S. Senator to replace retiring Republican Richard Burr, 14 members of Congress, all members of the state General Assembly, two seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court and three on the Court of Appeals and a variety of other local elections.
The BOE told Hyland that about 63,000 absentee ballots have been requested so far, a little more than half from registered Democrats. About 13% are from Republicans.
Wake County elections official Gerry Cohen reported on social media Saturday that 50 votes had been received – with 34 of them from Democrats, three from Republicans and the rest unaffiliated.