Trump, GOP leaders will appeal North Carolina ballot ruling

FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, file photo, stacks of ballot envelopes waiting to be mailed are seen at the Wake County Board of Elections in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)

President Donald Trump’s campaign said Thursday that it will ask a federal appeals court to force North Carolina to revert to absentee ballot rules as written in state law.

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 absentee by-mail ballots.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William Osteen blocked a procedure by which North Carolina absentee voters could cast ballots without a witness signature by returning an affidavit. Under that procedure, announced by the state elections board in September in response to a lawsuit sparheaded by Washington, D.C. Democratic lawyer Marc Elias, voters would not have to cast a complete ballot. 

However, Osteen said that he would let the remainder of the consent agreement go through.

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.