There are so many things we take for granted that affect our ability to make a living, operate a business in our free enterprise system, provide a quality education for our children, and live in a safe community. Typically the issues we discuss, particularly in an election year, have to do with taxes, spending, jobs, the size of government, education and health care.
Recently, law and order has come under attack. The acceptance of socialism is on the rise. But maybe the most troubling issue that threatens our fundamental freedoms is the possibility of voter fraud, ballot corruption and a tainted election. The integrity of our elections is a major foundation piece of a free society.
For several weeks, we’ve followed the story of how Governor Cooper’s State Board of Elections tried to change the way absentee ballot voting is conducted in North Carolina. They looked like they were going to get away with it. At least until a couple of federal judges finally restored sanity and good sense.
It’s a little complicated but here’s what happened. Back in August, U.S. District Judge William Osteen ruled that North Carolina did not have a process in place that let a voter know that their ballot was rejected or a way for them to be heard on why their ballot should be counted. Judge Osteen said in his ruling that due process was missing and needed to be restored.
Then, as the News & Observer described it, “On Oct. 2, a Wake County judge accepted a settlement agreement between the elections board and challengers who were suing to ease rules for voters. For absentee ballots missing a signature from a witness, the settlement would have allowed voters to sign a statement verifying it was their ballot. That would have allowed those ballots to be accepted without a witness signature.”
That’s when the fireworks started.
With recent concerns about the authenticity of elections and the ballot process, especially after the ballot harvesting debacle in the 2018 9th District Congressional election, it was a travesty for the State Board of Elections, the group that is supposed to protect voter integrity, to allow ballots without the requirement of a witness signature.
The settlement was viewed as so bad that the two Republican members of the State Board of Election who agreed to the settlement ended up resigning.
Now, back to present-day action, Judge Osteen clarified the process last Wednesday. Again, as the News & Observer described it: “U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen criticized the NC State Board of Elections, saying it had misconstrued or misinterpreted findings he made in August in a way that changed election rules from what had been decided by the state lawmakers who hold authority under the U.S. Constitution to do so….”
“Osteen said lawyers used his words out of context to get the Wake County judge to agree for the board to “usurp” legislative authority. ‘This court upheld the witness requirement — to claim a cure which eliminates the witness requirement is consistent with this court’s order is a gross mischaracterization of the relief granted,’ Osteen said.”
The ultimate result was the State Board of Election was told by Judge Osteen last week that the Board cannot allow absentee ballots to be counted without witness signatures. It is appalling that the Board considered it any other way.
After the ruling, NC Senate Leader Phil Berger said, “Judge Osteen concluded in no uncertain terms that the N.C. State Board of Elections violated the U.S. Constitution and North Carolina law by changing election laws after ballots had already been cast. Judge Osteen was right to stop the Board’s elimination of the absentee ballot witness requirement.”
NC House Speaker Tim Moore said, “North Carolinians can have confidence a bipartisan witness requirement for absentee ballots has been upheld by federal courts, in a win for the democratic process against unacceptable partisan collusion.”
Another issue that cropped up late last week similar to this discussion had to do with extending the time that ballots had to be in the hands of the state Elections Board. State law requires ballots to be in to the Board no later than three days after Election Day. Following negotiations involving Attorney General Stein, the State Board of Elections and Governor Cooper’s lawyer Marc Elias, the Board announced it would extend the period to nine days. Again, the only reasonable reason appears to be to give more time and flexibility for shenanigans.
Legislative leaders have asked Judge Osteen to address this issue as well by enjoining the decision by the State Board of Elections but he has said he doesn’t have that authority. Stay tuned for how that issue is decided.
Meanwhile we give a nod to Judge Osteen and U.S. District Court Judge Jim Dever, who also ruled on the absentee ballot witness requirement, for their common-sense rulings. Judge Dever, earlier this month, had put a temporary restraining order put in place, ruling that “At bottom, the [Board of Elections] has ignored the statutory scheme and arbitrarily created multiple, disparate regimes under which North Carolina voters cast absentee ballots.”
Our courts are more and more the battleground for decisions that impact our personal, business and family life as liberal instigators constantly barrage our fundamental institutions from the federal courts down to the county district court where mega-liberal donors like George Soros are pouring dump-truck loads of money into district attorney races to impact local elections. We must stay vigilant as our freedoms come under fire.