Thousands of North Carolina Black voters 'in limbo' as federal courts debate letting them fix ballot errors: report
Stressed-out man (Shutterstock)

On Monday, The Washington Post reported that an ongoing legal fight has left thousands of Black voters' ballots "in limbo" in North Carolina.

"The central issue is North Carolina’s rule that mail ballots be voted in the presence of a witness. The state is one of roughly 10 with some form of witness or notary requirement for mail ballots this fall," reported Elise Viebeck. "Typically, North Carolina requires a notary or two witnesses to observe as the voter completes their mail ballot. A state law passed this year reduced the number of witnesses to one for elections held in 2020, and instructions on the ballot envelope require that the witness print their name and full address and provide a signature for the vote to count."

"District Judge William L. Osteen Jr., a George W. Bush appointee, upheld the witness requirement in August while ruling that the state must allow voters to fix some problems with their ballots," continued the report. "But the Sept. 22 settlement proposal has proved controversial with him, as well as Republicans, who filed two new suits challenging it in federal court. In a highly unusual move, the Trump campaign also sent an email to local election officials that week telling them to disregard the agreement."

The upshot is that thousands of voters may not be given adequate opportunity to cure their ballots, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color. "A total of 6,801 ballots were marked as 'pending cure' as of Sunday, including 2,776 from Black voters, according to a Washington Post analysis of state election data."

The fight playing out in North Carolina is one of many unfolding around the country, as secretaries of state, legislatures, and courts grapple with how to mitigate the voting obstacles put in place by COVID-19. A number of states have either expanded eligibility for mail-in ballots, or seen a spike in the number of people interested in using them.