Voting Rights Groups Challenge Part of New North Carolina Voter Suppression Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Oct. 10, Voto Latino, the Watauga County Voting Rights Task Force, Down Home North Carolina and two individual voters filed a federal lawsuit challenging part of North Carolina’s newly enacted voter suppression law, Senate Bill 747

The new lawsuit ensued just minutes after the Republican-controlled North Carolina Legislature overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) veto of S.B. 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 on the same day they cast their ballots during the state’s early voting period

The provision at issue requires election officials to send a single address verification notice to same-day voters via the mail. If the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) returns the address verification notice as “undeliverable” before 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. In turn, the plaintiffs argue that “a single piece of undeliverable mail” can result in the disenfranchisement of “fully eligible voters.” 

Under the new law, the voter receives no notice of the cancellation of their ballot and registration and is given no opportunity to contest it. The plaintiffs assert that the provision “undermines North Carolina’s long-standing same-day registration process,” which was utilized by 104,336 voters in the 2022 general election. 

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.” North Carolina voters also previously had an opportunity to “defend their registration and ballots from rejection” at a hearing before the county board of elections. 

This new provision will automatically disenfranchise North Carolinians through no fault of their own. As the complaint explains: “[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.” 

According to the complaint, 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. The complaint also notes that these groups — “who have historically been excluded from voting” — disproportionately utilize same-day voter registration.    

S.B. 747 “represents the General Assembly’s most recent unjustifiable attack on same-day [voter] registration,” the complaint states. The pro-voting groups 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 lawsuit requests that a federal court declare the provision unconstitutional and prevent its enforcement. 

Read the complaint here.

Learn more about the case here.

Learn more about S.B. 747 here.