Judge Blocks Law To Throw Out Votes

Throwing Out Votes

A federal judge has temporarily blocked one of the NC voting law changes which could have thrown out votes without notice. The court found the law unconstitutionally created the risk that voters would lose their right to vote by error, and without notice or opportunity to be heard.

Chief District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina issued the preliminary injunction against that change. The ongoing lawsuit challenging multiple provisions of the elections law passed over the Governor’s veto last year. The blocked change would have applied to any voter who registered to vote or changed their registration during the early-voting period. It required local boards of elections to throw out the ballot of any such voter if mail sent to verify their address was returned. No notice to the voter would be required before their ballot was disqualified

Judge Schroeder pointed to evidence provided by the State Board of Elections. Cards sent to thousands of same-day registrants over the past four elections had been returned. There was no evidence that any of them was actually ineligible to vote. 

Disproportionate Impact On Young Voters and Voters of Color

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue the provision discriminates against young voters and voters of color. These voters are more likely to move frequently. Additionally, these voters more frequently live in places with inconsistent mail delivery and erroneous mail returns. To use the same-day registration and voting procedure during early voting, the voter must already show evidence they live at the address. The plaintiffs cite evidence of multiple cases in which mailed voter cards were returned by error, when the voter did actually live at the address. 

The lawsuit will continue toward trial, with this provision blocked in the meantime. The law’s defenders may seek to appeal the order granting the preliminary injunction.

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