State of North Carolina

North Carolina Signature Matching Guidance Challenge

In re Appeal of Declaratory Ruling from the State Board of Elections

Lawsuit filed by the North Carolina Republican Party (NC GOP) and two Republicans appealing the North Carolina State Board of Elections’ (NCSBE) July 22 decision denying the NC GOP’s request to allow county boards of election to accept or reject mail-in ballots based on whether a voter’s signature on their mail-in ballot matches the signature on their voter registration file. In its ruling, the NCSBE stated that “[u]nder North Carolina law, absentee ballot requesters confirm their identity by providing two unique personal identifiers. Absentee voters confirm their identity when submitting their ballots by having two witnesses or a notary public attest to having watched them vote their ballot. These procedures are authorized in law; signature matching is not.”

The plaintiffs claim that the NCBSE’s ruling harms them because it contravenes “election safeguards put in place by the General Assembly” and compromises “election security” by depriving county boards of further tools to verify that ballot envelopes were “personally signed by the voter.” The plaintiffs allege that the NCSBE’s decision violates the state constitution as well as Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution (the Elections Clause) since it fails to comply with statutes enacted by the General Assembly, which mandate that absentee envelopes be “signed personally by the voter,” and instead favors its own guidance on the matter. In their argument, the plaintiffs invoke the conservative independent state legislature theory by asserting that the NCSBE lacks the authority to “make” election laws and that by “directing county boards to not compare voter signatures, the State Board is effectively creating a law that does not exist.” The NC GOP further contends that the General Assembly was stripped of its lawmaking authority by the NCSBE. The NC GOP asks the court to step in to prevent “potential illegal votes to count on the basis of the State Board’s” decision by invalidating the NCSBE’s July 22 ruling and declaring it violates both the North Carolina and U.S. Constitutions.

On Oct. 3, a judge ruled from the bench and denied the Republican plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that sought to stop the NCSBE from directing county boards to not conduct signature matching in the upcoming November election. On Oct. 19. 2023, the plaintiffs’ voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit.

Case Documents

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