(The Center Square) – In-person early voting for North Carolina’s primaries begins in less than two weeks, and at least one litigation appears resolved.
At issue was a rule in same-day voting registration for a voter to appeal being removed from the voter roll if a single mailer comes back to election officials marked undeliverable. Lawmakers in 2023 amended the rule from two pieces of mail and, as so often happens to Republicans with majorities in the General Assembly, litigation followed to block it.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder on Jan. 21 issued an injunction for part of an election law enacted in the fall. On Monday, the state board directed counties getting an undeliverable mailer back to then recheck addresses matching; and try to contact by mail, email and phone in order to submit a new identification document or to appeal in person to the county elections board on the day of the final count.
“There’s no process for the court to accept the changes,” state board spokesman Patrick Gannon wrote in an email to The Center Square on Friday afternoon. “The court ordered that you can’t remove the ballot without notice and opportunity to remedy, then the state board issued its memo to county boards to carry out such procedures under legal authority of the state board. The only thing that would change the new procedures would be for a party in the litigation to object to the remedy offered by the state board. No such objection has been raised.”
Schroeder, in his ruling, wrote that one chance is a “substantial burden on same-day registrants who cast a ballot.” He said there is risk of “being erroneously disenfranchised by failing address verification due to governmental error, rather than factors related to their eligibility to vote, without any notice and opportunity to be heard.”
His injunction did not impact all of the legislation tied to what began as Senate Bill 747. The new law makes Election Day the last to receive absentee ballots. Another aspect intact is the prevention of special interest money funding election offices.
When he vetoed it, Gov. Roy Cooper said of the bill, “This legislation has nothing to do with election security and everything to do with Republicans keeping and gaining power. In working to erect new barriers for younger and non-white voters, many of whom use early voting and absentee ballots, this bill also hurts older adults, rural voters and people with disabilities.”
The veto was one of 19 overridden in 2023, this one 30-19 in the Senate and 72-44 in the House of Representatives. When it was, state Sens. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, and Buck Newton, R-Wilson, said in a joint statement, “Senate Democrats had a chance to support increasing transparency in our elections, but they chose to mislead voters and spread hyperbolic rhetoric.”
Super Tuesday is March 5. The in-person early voting period is Feb. 15-March 2. Ballots are already in the mail and coming back to election board offices; that process began Jan. 19. Those wishing to register in time to vote on Primary Election Day have until Friday of next week.
Lawmakers making it too hard to access polls was the criticism in this court filing tied to the process with three significant options over more than six weeks in which to cast a ballot.
North Carolina voter registration is open year-round, with deadlines just ahead of elections. In 2007, with Democratic majorities of 31-19 in the Senate and 68-52 in the House, lawmakers passed and enacted same-day registration during the early voting period.
The Democrats’ majorities in both chambers were wiped out in the historic 2010 midterms, the first time Republicans had both since Reconstruction 140 years earlier. The GOP hasn’t relinquished its grip since, at times holding three-fifths majorities capable of overriding gubernatorial vetoes.