North Carolina has been given a three-month extension by the U.S. Justice Department to produce millions of documents and ballots from past elections.
The N.C. Board of Elections said Wednesday that complying with the subpoena would make it difficult to prepare for the Nov. 6 election, and said it had never seen a subpoena so large. The state said the Justice Department had requested roughly 15 million election-related documents, and about 5.7 million ballots in 44 eastern N.C. counties.
The documents were supposed to have been turned over by the end of September.
In a letter sent Thursday to the state, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Sebastian Kielmanovich said the goal of the subpoena was to preserve the information so it wouldn't be destroyed. The eastern district has said it issued subpoenas at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Last month, the federal government charged 19 non-citizens with illegally voting in the 2016 presidential election.
The timing of the subpoena caused alarm among Democrats. Earlier Thursday, two North Carolina Democratic Congressmen, David Price and G.K. Butterfield, said the subpoenas were "alarming and unprecedented."
"In these subpoenas, ICE has failed to demonstrate its legal authority to request voting records and to reveal the rationale for the production of this information," the two Democrats said in a statement. "This massive request of voter data seems clearly designed to disenfranchise and intimidate voters and to disrupt the administration of an impending election with major state and national implications."
ICE declined to comment on the subpoenas Thursday.
The subpoena would have required the eastern North Carolina counties to turn over about 2.3 million ballots over five years that were traceable to voters. They were cast by absentee ballot, usually in early voting.
In his letter, Kielmanovich said the Justice Department would be OK with having some information on the ballots redacted.
"Moreover, as part of the production process we want to protect the confidentiality of any cast ballot that is provided," he wrote. "In other words, we want to prevent disclosure of any voter's actual choice of candidates in any race."
The N.C. Board of Elections is planning to discuss the subpoenas Friday at 10 a.m. in Raleigh.