New North Carolina voter law hits roadblock

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Instead of waiting until Election Day hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians vote early and in-person.

If they are not already registered to vote they can register to do so on the same day they early vote. A notice is then sent to the address filled out on the registration form. If the address is wrong, then the notice is sent back to the Board of Elections.

If that happens a new law, passed by Republican legislators, means the registration and the vote are canceled after the first attempt to mail. Previously two attempts were made.

“It really may impact relatively few voters. But the plaintiffs in this case, the North Carolina Democratic Party and some others, said it’s critical to have a two-step verification process just because it reduces the impact of mistakes,” said David McLennan, Meredith College professor of political science

U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder agreed with the plaintiffs.

“It lacks notice and opportunity to be heard before removing the votes of a cast ballot from the count,” Judge Schroeder said in his ruling.

“In the last four even-year elections, 1,799 out of 100,578; 696 out of 45,666; 2,151 out of 116,326; and 391 out of 34,289 same-day registrants have failed address verification. These numbers are based on the State’s prior two-card system, however, and the court can reasonably infer that there would not be any fewer failures if State Board Defendants send only one mail card. State Board Defendants and Intervenors, meanwhile, have provided no evidence at this stage that any of the several thousand same-day registrants who have failed address verification since its inception in 2008 was ineligible to vote on the ground of improper residency,” stated Judge Schroeder.

A returned voter verification gives Board of Elections’ staff another opportunity to look at the card and verify that their transcription from the original registration is correct.

“And it really does give the State Board of Elections just an additional opportunity to verify the voter’s address,” said McLennan

In a statement, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore said:

“The vast majority of Senate Bill 747 is still in effect including increased poll observer access, bans on special interest money funding election offices, and making election day the last day to receive absentee ballots. The court order requires relatively minor changes to one small part of the bill, and we are working with our attorneys and the State Board of Elections to ensure that the entire bill is in effect before the primary and general elections this year. We will never stop fighting for election integrity on behalf of North Carolina’s voters.”

Professor McLennan said before an appeal is heard by the 4th Circuit the injunction will likely stand through the state primary. “I suspect the goal of this is to affect the general election because you know, that’s when obviously the final decision is made by voters. So if there is an appeal made, and I suspect there will be, it will be made before the November election,” said McLennan.

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