by Rick Henderson, Carolina Journal News Service

RALEIGH — The day after the state announced a settlement with Democratic super-litigator Marc Elias likely gutting absentee ballot protections, the State Board of Elections’ two Republican members resigned. They suggested they were tricked into going along with a plan to let the board’s director negotiate settlements out of court.

Members David Black and Ken Raymond separately resigned from the board Wednesday, Sept. 23. Their resignation letters said they got misleading information from the office of state Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, or from board staff about the need to settle disputes over absentee ballot rules rather than take their arguments to court.

Black objected to the new rule saying a challenged absentee ballot could be “cured” by merely letting the voter confirm that they mailed a legitimate ballot. He said he was led to believe a witness would be required to verify the voter’s confirmation. The witness requirement was scrapped, to Black’s dismay.

Raymond said Stein misled the board about the settlement agreement. In it, the attorney general “did not advise us of the fact that a lot of the concessions made in the settlement have already been denied in a prior case by a federal judge and another case by a state court three-judge panel.”

In a statement from the board, spokesman Pat Gannon said, “The agency’s legal staff, who are civil servants, provide thorough legal memos to the board prior to every board meeting and answer any questions board members have about matters that come before the board.”

The two vacancies leave the elections board with three members, all Democrats. N.C. voters have requested several hundred thousand absentee ballots, and more than 100,000 have been accepted.

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