Federal Judge Issues Order Blocking Mass Purge of Voters From North Carolina Rolls
Ruling Comes in NAACP Suit Charging State Illegally Suppressed Right to Vote of Thousands of Black Residents
In At Least Three Counties, Voters Declared Ineligible Following Bogus Change- in-Residence Claims; Violates National Voting Registration Act
DURHAM—A federal judge Thursday Wednesday issued a restraining order blocking state and county boards of election from illegally cancelling the registrations of thousands of voters who are being targeted in a coordinated effort right out of the GOP playbook to suppress the black vote in the state.
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed Monday by the North Carolina NAACP, which charged that in Beaufort, Moore and Cumberland counties, boards of elections have cancelled registrations of thousands of voters solely on the basis of a challenge process triggered by individuals who produced single mailings returned as undeliverable, purporting to show a change in residence—without written confirmation from the affected voters or compliance with federal voter registration laws.
“[T]here is little question that the County Boards’ process of allowing third parties
to challenge hundreds and, in Cumberland County, thousands of voters within 90 days before the 2016 General Election constitutes the type of “systematic” removal prohibited by the [National Voter Registration Act],” U.S. District Judge Loretta C. Biggs wrote.
Facts produced in the lawsuit confirmed that several other counties have likely committed similar illegal purges. [take this out if she doesn’t give remedy for those counties]
“This emergency injunction will help make sure not a single voters’ voice is unlawfully taken away,” said the Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “The NAACP is defending rights of all North Carolinians to participate in this election and we will not back down and allow this suppression to continue. This is our Selma.”
Earlier Friday, President Obama read from a letter from one of the plaintiffs, 100-year-old Grace Bell Hardison, whose voter registration had been challenged. And late Tuesday night, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest supporting the North Carolina NAACP’s argument that the mass purging of voters from the rolls in the state is a violation of the National Voter Registration Act.
In its statement, the DOJ writes, “[t]he purge program at issue here rested on a mass mailing and the silence of voters largely unaware of the potential injury to their voting rights. A perfunctory administrative proceeding to consider evidence produced by a mass mailing does not turn an otherwise prohibited systematic process into an ‘individualized’ removal.”
In many cases, voters purged by the state still reside at the addresses where they are registered to vote, or have moved within the county and remain eligible to vote there, according to the complaint, filed Monday in federal court in the Middle District of North Carolina.
Nonetheless, a single item of returned mail, sent via a coordinated campaign led by individuals with GOP ties, has resulted in thousands of voters’ removal from the rolls. The mass removals violate the National Voting Registration Act, which limits states’ authority to cancel voter registrations based on change in residence, and other federal laws.