Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Voting Rights Task Force Sues Over S 747


Immediately after the override of Governor Cooper's veto of S 747 this morning in the General Assembly, the Watauga County Voting Rights Task Force et al. brought suit in Wake Superior Court seeking "declarative and injunctive relief" against a section of the new law governing same-day voter registration, which the suit alleges is a "harmful provision [that] threatens to disenfranchise eligible voters without due process of law and, in some cases, based on mistakes made by third-parties over which the voter has no control."

From plantiffs' petition:

Prior to the passage of S 747, North Carolina’s same-day registrants’ votes were counted unless the post office returned two pieces of “undeliverable” mail. At worst, two undeliverable notices might result in a public challenge to the same-day registrants’ vote being counted, if a challenge was received by 5 p.m. on the day of the election. But even if a same-day registrants’ ballot was challenged, the registrant was entitled to notice and a hearing to defend their vote in the face of such a challenge.

The Undeliverable Mail Provision of S 747 prohibits Defendants from registering a same-day voter and counting that voter’s ballot if the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) returns as “undeliverable” a single notice sent to that voter (the “Address Verification Notice”) before the close of business on the business day before the canvass. Now, these voters do not receive any notice that their ballot was removed from the official count, let alone an opportunity to be heard in defense of their vote counting. Nor are they made aware that their registration was not effectuated. Instead, they are automatically disenfranchised and not registered to vote—all without being afforded any process to contest the removal of their votes from the count or their exclusion from the voter rolls.

This provision undermines North Carolina’s long-standing same-day registration process, wherein eligible North Carolinians may both register to vote and cast their ballots on the same day during the early voting period. Same-day registration has long been a popular and important way for new registrants to access the franchise. In the 2022 general election alone, 104,336 voters relied on it to exercise their right to vote. Those numbers were even higher for the most recent presidential election: in the 2020 general election, 116,065 North Carolinians voted using same-day registration.

The Watauga Voting Rights Task Force and the other plaintiffs are being represented in the suit by the Elias Group. 

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