Voting rights protectors including the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP filed a lawsuit this week in federal court alleging that three North Carolina counties—Moore, Beaufort and Cumberland—illegally purged thousands of voters from the registration rolls, a disproportionate number of whom are African American.
The emergency petition claims that thousands of people had their voter registration canceled after a third party organization claimed the voters’ addresses had changed. One of these third party groups is the Voter Integrity Project, a right wing organization that filed challenges with the state against a hand selected group of voters, mostly African Americans.
According to Slate, “The problem is a state law that allows any person to revoke any other person’s right to vote by gathering mail that was returned as undeliverable, then challenging the voter registration of residents at those addresses. If the voters do not appear at a county board of elections or return a notarized form, they are removed from the voter rolls, often without their knowledge.”
The challenges brought by the Voter Integrity Project, and ultimately the ruling of the court, was based off a single piece of mass mail that was returned as undeliverable after being sent to the voters’ registered address. None of the challenged voters attended the court hearing and none were informed of their removal.
According to Penda Hair, a lead attorney on the case, the National Voter Registration Act prohibits the removal of voters within 90 days of an election, and all three of the counties voters were removed after the 90 day cut-off.
The Justice Department (DOJ) responded with an announcement that they will send DOJ officials to four North Carolina counties on Tuesday to monitor the elections.
North Carolina has received serious judicial backlash following their attempt to pass some of the most disenfranchising voter ID laws in the country. The law was passed in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, which effectively dismantled part of the 1964 Voting Rights Act, giving the federal government less oversight over voting regulations in states with a history of racial discrimination at the polls.
The voter ID law did not go into effect for this election after the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned it in July, ruling that it was passed by the state legislature with racially discriminatory intent. The appeals court pointed out that the law, “retained only those types of photo IDs disproportionately held by whites and excluded those disproportionately held by African Americans.”
In addition, counties have been skirting around the appeals court’s demand that early voting be re-instated to 17 days by eliminating Sunday voting, providing only one early voting location or severely cutting hours. For example, Lenoir County in the rural eastern portion of the state where 40 percent of the population is black has had a singular early voting location in a county stretching over 403 miles.