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Trump, GOP leaders will appeal North Carolina ballot ruling

By JONATHAN DREW

Associated Press

President Donald Trump’s campaign said Thursday that it will ask a federal appeals court to force North Carolina to revert to stricter absentee ballot rules.
The plaintiffs, which include the state and national GOP, said in court documents that they will file an emergency appeal asking the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to intervene after a federal judge issued a mixed ruling on the mail-in ballots.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William Osteen blocked a procedure by which North Carolina absentee voters could fix ballots missing a witness signature by returning an affidavit. Under that procedure, announced by the state elections board in September in response to another lawsuit, voters would not have had to start a new ballot over and have it witnessed again.

However, Osteen said that he would permit smaller problems such as incomplete witness addresses to be fixed without voters completely restarting their ballots.

The judge also declined to alter a deadline for accepting absentee ballots that arrive after Election Day but are postmarked by Nov. 3. The state board increased that period from three days to nine.

The Republican leaders said Thursday that they are asking the 4th Circuit to make the state return to stricter rules to avoid voter confusion and ensure all voters are treated equally.

State Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, Republicans who had also filed a lawsuit over the ballot procedures, informed Osteen that they are also appealing to the 4th Circuit.

After Osteen’s ruling, the state elections board sent a message to counties saying it would develop specific guidance in the coming days about how they should handle ballots with various deficiencies. The email signed Thursday by state board general counsel Katelyn Love said Osteen’s order requires voters missing a witness signature on their absentee ballot to start the process over and have it witnessed again.

The board had told counties earlier this month to set absentee ballots with errors aside and take no further action pending multiple lawsuits.

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