Saturday, December 23, 2023

Watauga Voting Rights Task Force Goes To Court


Next Thursday, December 28, an important request for an injunction to enjoin part of S 747, "Elections Law Changes," goes in front of Federal Judge Thomas D. Schroeder in the Middle District of North Carolina for a ruling. The sweeping S 747 ultimately passed by veto override in the General Assembly on October 10th.

Watauga Co Voting Rights Task Force (WCVRT) et al. v State Bd of Elections and Philip E. Berger et al. targets one particular section of S 747, "same-day" voter registration, specifically the "undeliverable mail provision" which can disenfranchise same-day registrants because of stupid postal or clerical errors. 

Following the General Election of 2022, the WCVRT tracked same-day registrants whose votes were challenged because a card-mailing to their addresses of record was returned as undeliverable, almost always because of computer or clerical error. The same-day registrants were qualified voters but were in jeopardy because of dumb mistakes. For example, mail was returned that had been directed to Ms. Xxxxx Xxxxx, address "SAME." "Same"? Because there are two lines for addresses on VR forms -- the 1st one for a physical residential address and the second for a mailing address if different from the physical address. When Ms. XXXX appeared at her polling location during early voting to update her address and cast a ballot, the poll worker wrote her residential address on the 1st line and wrote "Same" on the second.

Dumb stuff like that can disenfranchise a voter, but S 747 went even further in targeting young voters. The law as passed would not only throw out a ballot of an "undeliverable mail" addressee -- it will do so automatically, with no notice nor means of appeal for the voter -- but also cancel the voter registration itself.

The WCVRT came to the defense of same-day voters. Meanwhile, Judge Schroeder has his own history of rulings on election law changes. In 2016, the Republican bosses in Raleigh, in the same bill mandating voter photo ID, attempted to end same-day registration altogether. That omnibus law also cut early-voting by a week; ended preregistration, which allowed people to sign up before their 18th birthdays; and repealed the provision that counted out-of-precinct ballots. The NAACP sued for an injunction against the entire law, which came before Judge Schroeder, who in April 2016 ruled it all perfectly fine by him. Fortunately, that decision was soon overturned by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled it all unconstitutional.

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