Conservative Group Sues NC Elections Board Over Same-Day Registrations

Bill Clark/CQPHO

A conservative group in North Carolina filed a lawsuit Monday against the North Carolina state Board of Elections seeking to delay its certification of the 2016 elections until it has gone through the lengthy process of verifying the addresses of voters who registered to vote on the same day they voted.

The lawsuit comes as the sitting governor refuses to concede his defeat. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory trails Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper by some 5,000 votes. McCrory is claiming widespread voter fraud and is challenging ballots in dozen of counties as he tries to close the gap with Cooper.

McCory is under pressure from Democrats to concede. The new lawsuit, while not focused solely on the governor’s race, could buy McCory more time by postponing the official certification of the results until well into December.

The Civitas Center for Law and Freedom wants the Elections Board to hold off on certifying the election results until county election officials have completed a laborious process of verifying by mail the addresses of same-day registrants.

Voters in North Carolina were allowed to register and vote on the same day during the early voting period up until Nov. 5. County election officials must verify the address of same-day registrants by sending a notice to the address listed on the registration form, according to the complaint. According to the complaint, the county election board must mail a notice to the address listed by the voter, and if the post office does not return the letter as undeliverable, then the county can register the person to vote. If the notice is returned, the county election board must send a second notice to the address, and if that second letter is then returned by the post office, the county cannot register the individual to vote. County election officials must wait at least 15 days after sending a notice to determine that the post office will not return the notice and all in all, the process can take up to 30 days, according to the complaint.

The Civitas Center said in the complaint that the Board of Elections is set to certify the election results on Nov. 29, which it claims would come before the process to verify the addresses of same-day registrants is completed.

“To count ballots without verification of same-day registration information discriminates by treating one class of voters differently from another. Furthermore, this calls into question the outcome of close elections such as the one we are still in the middle of in North Carolina. Legitimate voters should never have their votes cancelled by illegitimate voters,” Civitas President Francis De Luca said in a Tuesday statement announcing the lawsuit. “The State Board of Elections should examine every ballot cast via same-day registration to verify that every vote cast is genuine and legitimate.”

The Civitas Center wrote in the lawsuit that this “violates North Carolina law because ballots will be counted without the voter registrations having been verified” and added that using same-day registration ballots “creates a separate class of voters and places non-SDR votes in a separate, unequal category.”

“Plaintiff simply asks that the Court require the Board to withhold certification of the 2016 statewide election results until such time as the mail verification process can run its course for SDR voters as it must for all other voters,” the lawsuit reads.

In the complaint, the Civitas Center claims that there is “a higher rate of SDR applicants failing the mail verification process as compared to the ordinary registration process.”

The state Board of Elections has yet to certify the results of the 2016 statewide races as Republicans have filed a flurry of complaints with county elections board with charges of voter fraud in the closely contest governor’s race.

The North Carolina state legislature in 2013 passed a voter ID law that eliminated same-day voter registration. But a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit struck down the law in July, forcing the state to reinstate same-day registration.

Read the Civitas Center’s complaint:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.
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