Third federal lawsuit filed over North Carolina’s new voting law

By: - October 17, 2023 3:45 pm
Voters line up to vote.

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Lawyers with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging a new North Carolina elections law, saying it discriminates against young voters. 

This is the third lawsuit challenging the multi-faceted law that, among other things, eliminates the three-day grace period for mail-in ballot returns and allows partisan observers to move more freely around polling locations. 

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed Senate Bill 747, but the legislature overrode his veto last week with party line votes in the House and Senate. Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers. Republicans said the law helps boost confidence in elections. 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is representing Democracy North Carolina, the North Carolina Black Alliance, and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina in their lawsuit challenging one of the law’s provisions. The law sets out new requirements for verifying addresses of people who use same-day registration. Same-day registration allows people during early voting periods to register and vote all in one trip to the polls. 

Boards of election send mail to new registrants as a way to verify addresses. 

Under the new law, if the postal service returns the first notice as undeliverable before the final count of votes, the voters’ registration will be canceled, and their ballots discounted. 

The lawsuit says it’s not right to depend on prompt and accurate mail delivery when it comes to voting. Young voters move a lot. College students often change addresses every year, which is one of the reasons they may prefer same-day registration. Mail delivery on college campuses is not always straightforward, the lawsuit says. 

Young voters are the heaviest users of same-day registration, so they will be hardest hit by the law’s unfairness, the lawsuit says. 

The lawsuit says young voters comprised nearly one-third of the voters who used same day registration in 2016, 2018, 2020 and 2022, even though they comprised less than 15% of voters overall. 

The law makes young voters “second-class citizens whose ballots may not be counted through no fault of their own,” the lawsuit says. 

The lawsuit says that the Republican-led legislature has a history of attempts to undermine youth voting. It refers to a speech that Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who helped former President Trump try to overturn the 2020 election, delivered this year where she said it shouldn’t be easy for college students to vote. She mentioned North Carolina in that speech. 

Vote Latino, the Watauga Voting Rights Task Force, Down Home North Carolina, and two individual voters filed a lawsuit last week challenging the same part of the law, NC Newsline reported. Attorneys associated with the Elias Law Group, who have represented Democratic voters in redistricting and elections lawsuits over the years, are representing them. 

The Democratic National Committee and the state Democratic Party are also challenging the law in federal court. 

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Lynn Bonner
Lynn Bonner

Investigative Reporter Lynn Bonner covers the state legislature and politics, as well as elections, the state budget, public and mental health, safety net programs and issues of racial equality.