NC Black Alliance Among Groups Suing NC General Assembly

Federal Lawsuit to Stop Senate Bill That Restricts Youth Voting

Attorney Marc Elias; Jeff Loperfido, Southern Coalition for Social Justice; Jovita Lee, North Carolina Black Alliance
Attorney Marc Elias; Jeff Loperfido, Southern Coalition for Social Justice; Jovita Lee, North Carolina Black Alliance
By Cash Michaels –

Federal Lawsuit to Stop Senate Bill That Restricts Youth Voting

The North Carolina Black Alliance has joined forces with Democracy North Carolina and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina (LWVNC), along with several other groups, in filing federal lawsuits to stop implementation of Senate Bill 747 (SB 747) and its “undeliverable mail provision.”

The Democratic National Committee and the NC Democratic Party filed an earlier lawsuit against all the provisions of the 43-page SB 747, arguing that it “…is a direct assault on the “most fundamental” right to vote,” and that “…the changes it adopts would make it much harder for some North Carolinians to register to vote, would allow ballots by same-day registrants to be rejected without any notice to the voter or any right to challenge the rejection, would permit an influx of intimidating and largely unconstrained poll observers into voting places, and would require the discarding of absentee ballots that are returned even a minute after the polls close on election day (no matter how far in advance of the election voters place their ballots in the mail). The US Constitution, the North Carolina Constitution, and multiple federal statutes prohibit these myriad efforts at vote suppression, which will disenfranchise many North Carolinians.”

“The plaintiffs allege that the Undeliverable Mail Provision violates the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment and places an undue burden on the right to vote in violation of the First and 14th Amendments,” according to attorney Marc Elias, representing the DNC and NCDP. “The plaintiffs request that the court declare the provision unconstitutional and prevent its enforcement.”

Democrats hope that a federal judge will issue an injunction against SB 747 and all of its provisions, preventing it from being implemented before the 2024 primaries and general elections.

Election experts agree that the ramifications of the law, if allowed to go into effect, go well beyond North Carolina, a key election battleground state.

Republican legislative leaders immediately filed motions in federal court to intervene on behalf of defendants in the case to protect their law, which they claim protects voters from alleged, unproven abuses they claim occurred during the 2020 election.

“North Carolina voters deserve to know their elections are safe and secure,” said Republican House Speaker Tim Moore in a statement. “Thankfully they can have that confidence now that we have overridden the Governor’s veto of this common sense elections bill.”

According to plaintiffs, the measure, titled, “An Act to Make Various Changes Regarding Election Law,”  “…impedes the right of young people to register to vote and have their ballot counted when using same-day registration.”

The LWVNC alleges, “SB747 places the fate of a ballot cast using same-day registration on whether a single piece of mail reaches that voter. If that piece of mail goes undelivered—by accident, negligence, or otherwise—the voter’s ballot is thrown out and their registration is canceled, with no notice provided and no opportunity for the voter to be heard. The North Carolina General Assembly enacted SB747 despite well-documented difficulties for young voters, including college students, to have their mail delivered reliably.”

“Black, Latino, and young North Carolinians are more likely to have mail returned as undeliverable due to housing insecurity, having a college campus address, or living in multi-generational households, according to the lawsuit,” reported Axios.

“Unfortunately, we have witnessed a consistent effort from our state’s leadership to create countless barriers for our voters, more specifically naming one of our most vulnerable populations, young adult voters,” said Jovita Lee, Program Director for North Carolina Black Alliance. “We have a duty to ensure that our young voters, especially those who attend our Historically Black Colleges and Universities that have been historically impacted by legislation such as this, can equitably access the ballot box and fully participate in our democratic process, per their given right.”

“Whether your vote gets counted should not be a random game of chance,” said Jeff Loperfido, Chief Counsel for Voting Rights at Southern Coalition for Social Justice (representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit). “But that’s precisely what this new same-day registration scheme does, by taking control out of the hands of the voter and leaving the fate of their ballot to the whims of election officials and the US Postal Service.”

After both chambers of the NC legislature passed SB 747 on August 17, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the measure. Republican lawmakers in both the state House and Senate then overrode Cooper’s veto on October 10, spurring the lawsuits on the same day.

Gov. Cooper has also filed suit against SB 512, which would take the governor’s appointment powers to state and local election boards, giving those powers to state lawmakers. Cooper called the bill “a blatantly unconstitutional power grab.”

It’s likely all of the separate legal actions against SB 747 will be consolidated into one federal lawsuit in the near future. The hope is that a federal judge will issue a temporary injunction stopping implementation of SB 747 before the 2024 elections.

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