Democratic Groups File Lawsuit Challenging New North Carolina Voter Suppression Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Oct. 10, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the North Carolina Democratic Party filed a federal lawsuit challenging multiple provisions of North Carolina’s newly enacted voter suppression law, Senate Bill 747

The lawsuit is the second federal legal challenge to be brought against the new anti-voting law. Earlier today, pro-voting groups led by Voto Latino brought a separate lawsuit challenging parts of S.B. 747 just minutes after North Carolina’s Republican-controlled Legislature overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) veto of the legislation. 

The Democratic plaintiffs challenge various provisions of the law that impose new barriers and requirements for same-day voters, those who register to vote the same day that they cast their ballots during the state’s early voting period. The Democratic groups assert that the law creates a distinct set of onerous standards for same-day registrants, many of whom are students, young voters, elderly voters and low-income voters. 

The lawsuit brings claims against a provision that requires same-day registrants to provide additional documentation beyond just a photo ID that other registrants are not required to produce. In particular, the law requires same-day registrants to produce proof of residence via a specific set of qualifying documents — such as a utility bill or bank statement — that indicate the voter’s name and residence. 

The Democratic groups also challenge a separate provision that allows for the rejection of a same-day registrants’ application and completed ballot based on a single address verification notice sent via the U.S. Postal Service being returned as “undeliverable.” Meanwhile, the lawsuit highlights that non-same-day registrants are sent two address verifications notices instead of just one. The complaint also notes that S.B. 747 does not provide same-day registrants the opportunity to contest the automatic denial of their registration and removal of their ballots from the official count. In contrast, non-same-day registrants are afforded the chance to appeal a denial of their registration to county boards of elections. 

Under the law’s new same-day registration regime, same-day voters cast what is known as a “retrievable ballot” instead of a regular ballot. The plaintiffs argue that S.B. 747 violates the Help America Vote Act “because it does not establish a free access system (such as a website or a toll-free phone number) allowing for the tracking of” retrievable ballots. 

In addition to these changes to same-day registration procedures, the plaintiffs mount claims against a provision of S.B. 747 that moves up the absentee ballot receipt deadline (for ballots that are postmarked by Election Day) from three days after the election to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day proper. At the same time, the law increases the time for challenging absentee ballots to five days after Election Day. 

“This change cannot be justified as a way to ensure that election results are determined by election night (or very soon thereafter), because S.B. 747 simultaneously extends the window for challenging absentee ballots to five days after election day, abandoning the prior requirement that such challenges be made by 5:00 p.m. on election day,” the complaint reads.

Lastly, the plaintiffs challenge a portion of the law that empowers partisan poll observers to move freely about a polling place with fewer regulations and restrictions. The lawsuit claims that the portion of the law governing poll observer conduct violates Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act, which protects voters from intimidation.

According to the lawsuit, “[t]he U.S. Constitution, the North Carolina Constitution, and multiple federal statutes prohibit these myriad efforts at vote suppression, which will disenfranchise many North Carolinians.” Specifically, the plaintiffs contend that the challenged provisions burden the right to vote in violation of the First and 14th Amendments as well as the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. The lawsuit also claims that parts of S.B. 747 violate the North Carolina Constitution’s Law of the Land Clause and Free Elections Clause as well as a provision of the federal Civil Rights Act that prohibits election officials from applying different standards to individuals who reside within the same area, such as a county. 

The DNC and North Carolina Democratic Party ask the court to temporarily and permanently block the enforcement of the challenged provisions. 

Read the complaint here.

Learn more about the case here.