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Judge rules North Carolina absentee ballots must have witness signature

Judge rules North Carolina absentee ballots must have witness signature

A federal judge has ruled that North Carolina absentee ballots must include a witness signature.

In his ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William Osteen reversed an earlier decision allowing voters to turn in an affidavit to remedy ballots without signatures, Reuters reported.

Osteen’s ruling left the door open for voters to fix minor problems with absentee ballots, such as signing it in the wrong place, according to Reuters.

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The judge wrote that a State Board of Elections rule allowing a witness-free absentee ballots contradicted a ruling he made in August that upheld the witness requirement.

“This court upheld the witness requirement — to claim a cure which eliminates that witness requirement is ‘consistent with’ this court’s order is a gross mischaracterization,” he said.

The ruling was a win for Republican groups in the state who have pushed for tighter regulations around absentee voting. State Sen. Phil Berger (R) said in a statement that “Judge Osteen was right to stop the ... elimination of the absentee ballot witness requirement.”

However, Allison Riggs, interim executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, also said the ruling was a victory for voting rights advocates by allowing some corrections to ballots.

“Today was a win for our clients and for all North Carolina voters who need to correct a problematic mail-in ballot,” she said, according to The Associated Press.

The ruling comes as most North Carolina polling indicates a narrow lead for Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats warn GOP will regret Barrett confirmation Trump campaign eyes election night party at his sold-out DC hotel Harris blasts GOP for confirming Amy Coney Barrett: 'We won't forget this' MORE against President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE, who won the state by 3.6 points in 2016.

The president has baselessly claimed voting by mail will lead to massive voter fraud. While Trump has frequently drawn a distinction between absentee and universal mail-in voting, numerous states, including his primary residence of Florida, make no such distinction.