Democracy N.C. v. N.C. State Board of Elections

Voting Rights
Voting during COVID

Case Summary

Filed 05/22/2020
Updated 06/05/2024

Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed this challenge to several North Carolina voting restrictions presenting an undue burden on voters during the COVID-19 pandemic on behalf of two organizations (Democracy North Carolina and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina) and eight voters (Donna Permar, John P. Clark, Margaret B. Cates, Lelia Bently, Regina Whitney Edwards, Robert K. Priddy II, Susan Schaffer, and Walter Hutchins). The action was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in partnership with co-counsel from Fair Elections Center and WilmerHale.

Plaintiffs challenged restrictions on voter registration, absentee voting by mail, polling place hours, and staffing, that effectively forced voters to risk being infected by COVID-19 while voting, violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.

After the suit was filed, the N.C. General Assembly passed an election bill addressing several concerns, including reducing the two-witness requirement among other alterations for the 2020 general election. On August 4, 2020, the trial court granted in part plaintiffs' motion for a Preliminary Injunction, requiring the state to provide voters with notice and a cure process before rejecting any absentee ballots due to issues with the ballot application, and also provided relief to plaintiff Walt Hutchins to receive assistance in filling out his ballot. After the State Board of Elections indicated an intent to make the cure process permanent, the trial court dismissed the case as moot.

The North Carolina General Assembly made the cure process a statutory requirement in 2023.

Why it's Important

The unconstitutionally burdensome registration and voting requirements forced voters to choose between casting their ballot or compromising their health.

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