State of North Carolina

North Carolina S.B. 747 Undeliverable Mail Provision Challenge (Voto Latino)

Voto Latino v. Hirsch

Lawsuit filed on behalf of Voto Latino, the Watauga County Voting Rights Task Force, Down Home North Carolina and two individual voters challenging part of North Carolina’s recently enacted voter suppression law, Senate Bill 747. The lawsuit specifically challenges S.B. 747’s new “Undeliverable Mail Provision,” which the plaintiffs contend will arbitrarily disenfranchise North Carolina’s same-day voters, those who register to vote the same day that they cast their ballots during the state’s early voting period. (The early voting period begins 20 days prior to the election and ends the Saturday before Election Day.) The provision at issue requires election officials to send an address verification notice to same-day voters via the mail. If the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) returns a single address verification notice as “undeliverable” prior to the canvassing of ballots, election officials are prohibited from registering the same-day voter and are required to exclude their ballot from the official vote count. Under this provision, same-day voters are not notified if their ballots are canceled or registrations are denied — nor are they given an opportunity to contest a denial — resulting in voters being automatically disenfranchised often through no fault of their own.

According to the complaint: “[S]tudies have shown that up to 23% of all undeliverable mail is the result of USPS error rather than a faulty address. Compounding the problem, poll workers often complete registration applications for same-day registrants and may make mistakes in recording the voter’s address.” The complaint further explains that Black, Latinx and young North Carolinians are more likely to have mail returned as undeliverable due to housing insecurity, having a college campus address or living in multi-generational households. Prior to S.B. 747, a same-day voter who completed and fulfilled all other registration requirements could not be denied the right to vote unless the USPS returned two undeliverable address notices to the applicant. Furthermore, North Carolina law previously guaranteed that if either of the two address notices were returned as undeliverable “after a person has already voted in an election,” then “the county board shall treat the person as a registered voter.” Voters also previously had an opportunity to “defend their registration and ballots from rejection.” Under the new version of the law, “a single piece of undeliverable mail” can result in disenfranchisement of “fully eligible voters.” 

The plaintiffs allege that the Undeliverable Mail Provision violates the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment and places an undue burden on the right to vote in violation of the First and 14th Amendments. The plaintiffs request that the court temporarily block the provision, declare it unconstitutional and prevent its enforcement. On Jan. 21. 2024, the district court temporarily blocked enforcement of the undeliverable mail provision until the state can create a process for voters to be notified and have an opportunity to be heard prior to their registration being denied.

On Jan. 21, 2024, a judge temporarily blocked S.B. 747’s undeliverable mail provision and ordered North Carolina to provide same-day voters who fail the address verification process with the chance to be notified and heard before their ballots are removed from the official count. On April 2, the court denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss the case. Litigation is ongoing.

Case Documents

Last updated: