Just weeks before early voting begins, a federal appeals court panel ruled Oct. 1 to overturn parts of North Carolina’s new voting law. The Fourth Circuit Court’s decision reinstates same-day voter registration and allows ballots cast outside a voter’s assigned precinct to still be considered in pertinent races.
However, it maintains the law’s reduction of early voting days by one week. The early voting period in North Carolina begins Oct. 23 and runs through Nov. 1. A new provision of the law requiring voter ID does not take effect until 2016.
The panel of three Democratic appointees ruled 2-1 to make the changes, arguing that the state law violates the Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising African-American voters.
A range of voting-rights advocates immediately praised the decision.
“We are pleased with the Circuit Court’s ruling today,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, in a press release. The president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and leader of the state’s progressive “Moral Monday” movement added: “The evidence clearly showed that, under North Carolina’s voter suppression law, African Americans would have faced higher barriers to the ballot this November, and the court took an important step to ensure that this election will remain free, fair, and accessible to all North Carolina voters. Our fight is not yet over, though. We will charge ahead until this law is permanently overturned in the full trial next summer.”
“The court’s order safeguards the vote for tens of thousands of North Carolinians. It means they will continue to be able to use same-day registration, just as they have during the last three federal elections,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, in a press release.
The NC Board of Elections released a statement saying it expected an appeal of the decision to reach the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as tomorrow.
“We are concerned that changes so close to the election may contribute to voter confusion,” said Kim Westbrook Strach Executive Director of the State Board of Elections. “More than 4 million voter guides have gone to the public with information contrary to today’s decision.”
Read an analysis of the decision by the Election Law Blog here.
Read the decision in its entirety here.
UPDATE Oct. 9: The U.S. Supreme Court weighed in, overruling the Fourth Circuit Court’s decision.
Press release from the North Carolina Board of Elections:
Supreme Court: New voting procedures enforceable
RALEIGH, N.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court today stayed a federal appeals court order that would have enjoined parts of North Carolina’s new voting law regarding same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting. The vote was 7-2, with Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayer dissenting.
The hard deadline to register is Friday. Election Day voters must cast ballots at their assigned polling location.
Attorneys for the state requested a stay on Friday after a split-panel in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered changes to election procedures just weeks before the beginning of early voting.
“Please encourage those in your community to register by Friday and to vote in the proper precinct on Election Day,” said Executive Director Kim Westbrook Strach of the State Board of Elections. “We hope voters will make use of the record-setting number of early voting sites, beginning October 23.”
Voter registration forms are available online. Voters who have move to a new county must submit a new registration. Those who are uncertain of their registration status may view their voter profile online.
The State Board of Elections mailed more than 4 million voter guides to residences across the state before last week’s ruling. Voters may now rely on legal summaries appearing on page 3 of the voter guide.