SCSJ: “We look forward to making our case that these purges represent yet another attempt to thwart the freedom to vote in North Carolina.”
Durham, N.C. (Nov. 15, 2021) — Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) and pro bono counsel from Womble Bond Dickinson, LLP, asked a federal judge late Friday to allow two voting rights organizations — the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute (NC APRI) and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina (LWVNC) — to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Republicans designed to purge eligible voters from the voter rolls in 40 North Carolina counties.
The case, Green v. Bell, was filed in September 2021, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, by attorneys William Consovoy, Jason Torchinsky, and former Republican NC Supreme Court Justice Bob Hunter, on behalf of two NC Republicans. Consovoy championed the Trump administration’s discredited 2020 voter fraud narrative after he had launched his career with a leading role in the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County case, infamous for gutting the Voting Rights Act. Torchinsky is best known for advancing former NC Governor Pat McCrory’s efforts to defame North Carolina voters during McCrory’s failed re-election bid in 2016. The trio’s 2021 lawsuit in Green is one of several filed in the past year using incomplete data to lobby disingenuous claims against North Carolina’s swing-state voters and sow doubt in our elections.
Allison Riggs, Co-Executive Director and Chief Counsel for Voting Rights at SCSJ called this lawsuit, which targets voters in nearly half of North Carolina’s counties, a “dangerous escalation” in recent efforts to weaponize the courts to purge NC voters.
“The scope of this lawsuit represents a dangerous escalation in tactics meant to destroy voter confidence and access,” said Riggs. “We look forward to making our case that these attempted purges represent yet another spurious effort to thwart the freedom to vote in North Carolina.”
Accurate voter rolls are an essential part of North Carolina’s election security, and the state already has processes in place to remove ineligible voters. In addition to periodically updating voter rolls to account for deaths, changes of address, and ineligibility due to felony convictions, North Carolina has also removed more than 570,000 names in 2019 and almost 400,000 more in 2021 as part of its biennial list maintenance process.
“North Carolina already applies a heavy hand in updating its voter rolls, so the true purpose of these types of lawsuits is clear,” said Melvin Montford, head of NC APRI, which motioned to intervene. “These meritless claims disproportionately impact voters of color and make the job of getting them ready to vote that much harder.”
Back in August 2021, SCSJ also motioned to intervene on behalf of LWVNC and NC APRI in Judicial Watch v. NCSBE, where a federal magistrate judge in the Western District ultimately recommended the dismissal of a similar lawsuit brought by the national right-wing group Judicial Watch. Similar to the plaintiffs in Green, Judicial Watch targeted major North Carolina jurisdictions, attempting to purge eligible voters from the registration rolls in Guilford and Mecklenburg counties.
Jo Nicholas, the President of LWVNC, called this latest lawsuit impacting dozens of NC counties “outrageous.” “It is outrageous that people want to do as much as they can to discourage voting in North Carolina. We will continue our fight for the voting rights of the people of North Carolina as long as we have to.”
In a 2020 case, PILF v. NCSBE, the conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation requested personal information about registered voters from the NCSBE in an effort to falsely accuse communities of color of illegal voting. In that case, SCSJ filed an amicus brief in defense of targeted voters and helped to prompt the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to issue clear guidance protecting these voters’ identities from public disclosure and the potential for harassment.
“It is important that organizations experienced in fighting voter suppression be heard in cases in which parties seek to deprive North Carolina voters of their right to vote,” said Press Millen of the Womble Bond Dickinson, LLP, which filed the Friday motion.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.