The Pulse

Latest federal voting lawsuit alleges violations of the Motor Voter Law

By: - December 15, 2015 1:16 pm

Action NC, Democracy NC, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and three state residents filed suit today against state officials in federal court in Greensboro for violations of the federal “Motor Voter Law.”  That law requires the state to provide voter registration services to people visiting public assistance agencies and motor vehicle offices in an effort to expand registration and voting opportunities.

In May 2015 the groups advised the state Board of Elections, Department of Health and Human Services and the Division of Motor Vehicles that each had failed to meet its obligations under the Motor Voter Law and urged quick steps to bring the state into compliance.

A report out at that time showed that state offices were systematically failing to provide state residents with the opportunity to register to vote when they applied for public assistance.

According to Democracy NC, voter registration applications initiated at public assistance agencies dropped dramatically since Gov. Pat McCrory took office, falling from an annual average of 38,400 between 2007 and 2012 to an average of only 16,000 in the past two years — a decline of more than 50 percent.

The organization also reported that last fall it and other voting-rights groups checked out 19 public assistance agencies across the state and found after interviews that up to 75 percent of the clients at the agencies did not see a registration question on agency forms and were not asked whether they would like to register to vote, as required by federal law.

The groups filing suit today say that state offices have failed to remedy the violations identified in May.

“North Carolina’s public assistance agencies are routinely failing to provide NVRA-mandated voter registration services,” Allison Riggs, an attorney from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice representing one of the plaintiffs said in a statement. “Extensive interviews conducted at public assistance offices in 11 counties found rampant lapses in compliance with the law, lapses that are having a huge impact on North Carolina voters.”

Read the complaint filed today here.


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Sharon McCloskey

Sharon McCloskey, former Courts, Law and Democracy Reporter for N.C. Policy Watch, writes about the courts and decisions that impact North Carolina residents. McCloskey also wrote for Lawyers Weekly and practiced law for more than 20 years. Follow her online at or @sharonmccloskey.