Court of Appeals Restores Same-Day Registration and Provisional Ballots in N.C.

On October 1, 2014  the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision of Federal District Judge Schroeder, restoring same-day registration and out-of-precinct provisional ballots for North Carolina voters. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) and the ACLU represented plaintiffs including the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the NC A. Philip Randolph Institute, Unifour Collaborative, Common Cause NC, and other organizations and individuals in this litigation.

 “By allowing same-day registration and counting out-of-precinct provisional ballots in November, the Court will enfranchise thousands of eligible voters who otherwise would not have a voice,” said Southern Coalition for Social Justice Senior Staff Attorney Allison Riggs.

The Court of Appeals did not enjoin all aspects of the new North Carolina voting law. For example, the shortened early voting period remains in effect.
But “same day registration is essential, particularly for voters of color,” said Melvin Montford, Executive Director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute of North Carolina. In both 2008 and 2012, approximately 250,000 people used same-day registration, with African Americans disproportionately relying on this method of voting. “Thanks to today’s Court of Appeals ruling, North Carolinians will again be able to use this important voting tool,” concluded Montford.
“Great victory for democracy and the people in North Carolina,” said Bob Phillips, Executive Director of Common Cause North Carolina. “Having same day voter registration and out of precinct voting count are tremendous tools to help more people participate in this election.”
“From our experience with voter registration, we know that many people move without understanding the need for or completing new voter registration,” said plaintiff-appellants High and Sara Stohler. “And we know that others live or work far from their assigned polling sites and have made use of provisional voting at a closer precinct. Same day registration and provisional ballots from outside the precinct both address the need to make the ballot available to all eligible voters who wish to vote. We believe this action by the Court of Appeals strengthens the election process.”

“The League of Women Voters is pleased that our appeal resulted in overturning the elimination of same day registration, which research has shown is the single best method for increasing voter participation,” said Brenda Rogers, President of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina. “The ruling also allows votes to count for those offices that are unaffected when a voter casts a ballot out of precinct, thus ensuring that voters have a voice.  The League’s goal, which has been supported by this ruling, is to protect citizens’ Constitutional right to vote. We are encouraged by this ruling that our full case will win when heard in 2015!”

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision is available here.
A summary of the opinion is available here.
Post by SCSJ Deputy Director Shoshannah Sayers