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On April 21, the U.S. Supreme Court is slated to consider whether or not is will hear an appeal to a lower court’s ruling that found North Carolina’s 2013 voter suppression law “targeted African-American voters with almost surgical precision.” This is the fourth time the appeal has been scheduled for the Court’s consideration.
The lower court’s ruling that found the law unconstitutional required North Carolina to reinstate several voting processes for the 2016 general election including a longer early voting period and Same-Day Registration (SDR), and removed the photo ID requirement. SDR enables North Carolina’s voting-age citizens to go to any early voting location in their county, register, and vote in one transaction.
- Was used broadly by Republican, Democratic, and Unaffiliated voters;
- Allowed for participation from North Carolinians who move frequently;
- Created a safety net for voters whose registration had been inadvertently removed or not processed; and
- Provided a secure and convenient way to register eligible voters.
The report found that 100,258 North Carolinians used SDR in the November 2016 election, an increase from the 97,100 who used the process in the 2012 general election.
The report also found that SDR provides a convenient way for eligible voters to register while also creating ample safeguards for election officials to obtain proper documentation from voters. In order to register same-day, voters must not only attest to their eligibility to vote; they must also, without exception, provide proof of identity and residence by providing an acceptable document showing the voter’s current name and current address.
“The bottom line is that Same-Day Registration allows more eligible voters to participate in our electoral process,” said Jaclyn Maffetore, Legal Fellow for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and lead author of the report. “Our democracy works best when more people participate and Same-Day Registration has proven to be a valuable tool for many North Carolinians.”
The report notes that SDR allows for election administrators to serve an increasingly mobile electorate: “According to the United States Census Bureau, 11.2% of the American population moves every year. This growing mobility is accompanied by an increased need to re-register from one election to the next, which in turn increases the likelihood that even the most diligent and best-intentioned voter will encounter an incident or error preventing his or her successful registration by mail. Individuals use SDR to ensure that they are not disenfranchised by such error.” (Use of Same-Day Registration in North Carolina, p.4, https://southerncoalition.org/sdr)
“Administering an election where nearly five million people vote is never going to be a perfect task. Voters may be wrongly purged from the registration rolls when they’re still eligible and intend to vote in the future,” Allison Riggs, Senior Voting Rights Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “Voters may not understand the rules regarding when they gain or lose eligibility to vote, especially if the rules are complex, as they are when someone has had a felony conviction in the past. Same-Day Registration creates a safety net to ensure that eligible voters are not excluded from the political process, lets voters directly ask questions of election officials, and was heavily used by a broad array of North Carolinians in 2016: all of that is a cause for celebration.”
The report concludes with the recognition that Same-Day Registration has helped increase voter turnout in since its adoption in 2007, “North Carolinians of all races, ages, and political affiliations take advantage of this secure method of registration, for a multitude of reasons, whether it be administrative or technological error, recent change in circumstances, or pure convenience. If current trends hold true, the continued use of SDR will only lead to greater enfranchisement of and participation by North Carolina citizens in their government.”