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Voter IDA new analysis of voter registration data shows that under the McCrory administration, North Carolina may be systematically failing to provide state residents with the opportunity to register to vote when they apply for public assistance — such as food stamps or welfare — in violation of the National Voter Registration Act.

Commonly called the “Motor Voter Law,” the Act requires public assistance agencies and motor vehicle offices to provide voter registration services whenever someone applies for benefits, renews or recertifies benefits, or changes an address with the agency, unless the person declines these services in writing.

Affected programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (“TANF”), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (“WIC”), the Medicaid program, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (“CHIP”).

According to Democracy NC, voter registration applications initiated at public assistance agencies have dropped dramatically since McCrory took office. They fell from an annual average of 38,400 between 2007 and 2012 to an average of only 16,000 in the past two years, a decline of more than 50 percent.

The organization also reports that last fall it and other voting-rights groups checked out 19 public assistance agencies across the state  and found after interviews that up to 75 percent of the clients at the agencies did not see a registration question on agency forms and were not asked whether they would like to register to vote, as required by federal law.

Also, according to this piece in the The Daily Kos:

From 1995 through 2012, the North Carolina State Board of Elections (SBOE) published on its web site annual summaries (in the form of Excel spreadsheets) of its NVRA compliance data. But, beginning in 2013 (when McCrory took office), that practice appears to have come to a halt, and no annual summaries are available there for McCrory’s term (2013-2014).

Here’s a graph from that article showing the apparent decline:

(Source: DocDawg for Daily Kos)

(Source: DocDawg for Daily Kos)

Democracy NC, Action NC, and the A. Philip Randolph Institute sent a notice letter today to the State Board of Elections  and the Department of Health and Human Services, advising both of their findings and giving the state 90 days to comply with the law or face yet another voting rights lawsuit.

North Carolina is already in the throes voting rights battles in the courts. Three federal lawsuits — including one brought by the Justice Department — and another action in state court, all concerning the state’s so called “Monster Voting Law,” are now pending.

The state is also fighting a challenge to its 2011 voter redistricting plan, a case that is now back in state Supreme Court after being remanded by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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News

In papers filed with the state Supreme Court yesterday, lawmakers told the justices there was no reason to expedite proceedings in the North Carolina redistricting case, Dickson v. Rucho, sent back here last week by the U.S. Supreme Court — at least not within the time frame that challengers to the state’s redistricting plan want.

That order by the nation’s highest court came on the heels of its earlier decision in a similar case out of Alabama, in which the justices held that the Voting Rights Act required lawmakers to assess whether minorities had the ability to elect a preferred candidate of choice and to draw voting lines in order to facilitate that goal — not, as Alabama had done, to achieve specific numerical minority percentages.

North Carolina lawmakers operated under the same mistaken premise when designing the state’s 2011 plan, according to challengers.

Here’s Eddie Speas, one of the attorneys representing those challengers:

One of the things we think is important in the Alabama case is that the Alabama legislature engaged in a mechanical process when drawing districts that is inconsistent with the sensitive, strict scrutiny and narrow tailoring that the Supreme Court said has to happen in these redistricting plans.

And North Carolina lawmakers were guilty of this sin twice: First they adopted the rule that they would draw majority – minority districts in numbers proportional to the state’s black population. And then they drew each of those districts to have at least 50 percent total black voting age population.

Just after the Supreme Court order sending the case back, plan challengers asked the state’s high court to expedite the case — hoping to get a final resolution and any necessary redistricting changes in place in time for elections in 2016.

Lawmakers opposed that request yesterday, arguing that they needed time to fully brief the arguments they managed already to outline for the court and citing, ironically, scheduling conflicts they had with trial dates in the federal voter suppression cases.

(Several of the attorneys for the plan’s challengers are also involved in the federal cases.)

It’s been rare in recent history for the state Supreme Court to hear cases during the summer months.

However, with Chief Justice Mark Martin at the helm, the court has begun taking certain cases directly (bypassing the usual appeal process) and setting quick argument dates.

In October 2014, the court took up five cases for expedited review, including the challenge to the private school voucher program.

The court has also expedited argument in the appeal of the Governor’s lawsuit against the legislative leaders concerning commission appointments, setting that down for June 30.

To read the redistricting plan challengers’ request for expedited review, click here.

To read the lawmakers’ opposition, click here.

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News

VoteWake County Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan  has refused to dismiss a case challenging the state’s voter ID law, sending the case to trial in July instead.

Under the so-called monster voting law passed in 2013, voters will have to show one of seven forms of photo identification to cast a ballot starting in 2016.

“On behalf of our clients, we look forward to trying this case in July and demonstrating the disenfranchising effect of the photo ID requirement,” said Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s George Eppsteiner, one of attorneys for the parties challenging the law.

Those parties include 78-year-old Alberta Currie, whose family picked cotton and tobacco on Robeson County fields and who has no birth certificate because she was born at home. She has voted consistently since she first became eligible to vote in 1956. She does not have a photo ID and cannot obtain one in North Carolina without a birth certificate.

Joining her in the lawsuit, Currie v. North Carolina — filed in August 2013 when three federal actions were likewise filed — are several other individuals as well as the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and the North Carolina A. Phillip Randolph Institute.

Together they allege that the photo ID requirement creates a new qualification to vote and discriminates against African-American voters, all in violation of the North Carolina Constitution.

At a hearing in late January, both the state and the challengers asked the court enter judgment in their favor based solely upon their respective court pleadings.

In his order filed on February 24, Morgan ruled instead that the challengers’ claims that the photo ID requirement constituted an impermissible qualification on the right to vote and also violated Equal Protection provisions of the state constitution could only be decided after a full presentation of evidence at trial.

Read the full decision here.

 

Commentary
Senator Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County

Senator Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County

Sometimes, one has to admit that the forces of the universe are possessed of a wicked sense of humor. Witness this story in today’s Washington Post and the new study on which it is based. According to both, preregistering teens to vote so that they become eligible upon turning 18 does in fact increase participation and turnout — exactly what advocates for the practice have been saying for years.

Here, however, is the LOL kicker from the Post story:

“You might think that anything that increases the turnout of young people would inevitably benefit Democrats, since young people lean toward the Democratic Party.  But that is not what Holbein and Hillygus found.  Although preregistration tended to add more Democrats than Republicans to the rolls — simply because more young people registered as Democrats — it actually reduced the Democratic advantage among those young people who actually voted.”

You got that, Senator Rucho? By repealing teen preregistration as they did in the Monster Voting Law of 2013, North Carolina Republicans quite likely hurt themselves.

As you will recall, when pressed for an explanation for the move to repeal teen preregistration, Rucho, the Senate architect of the proposal said that the old law had been “very confusing” to his high school-aged son. And while this explanation was widely dismissed at the time as a rather transparent bit of excuse making, the new study seems to confirm that maybe Rucho was being straight. After all, by all indications, failing to understand how voting and voting laws law really work is something that runs in the Rucho family.

News

VoteHere’s something North Carolina voters can put on their wish lists for 2015:  voting reforms like those enacted by the Illinois legislature earlier this week that make registration simpler and more reliable, cut election costs in the long run, reduce voter fraud and, most importantly, expand the right and ability to vote.

In just about every way, the Illinois bill is the polar opposite of North Carolina’s House Bill 589, enacted in August 2013 and widely criticized as one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country.

Here are the highlights, as summarized by the Brennan Center’s DeNora Getachew:

The Illinois bill has three major pieces:

  1. It will implement electronic registration, which means more voters will have the opportunity to sign up when they interact with a government agency.
  2. It will create a permanent same-day registration (SDR) system. SDR will increase convenience by allowing citizens to register and vote on the same day, either before or on Election Day.
  3. It will increase early voting options by extending them to include the three days — most notably, the Saturday and Sunday — before Election Day.

Illinois had already adopted online voter registration in 2013, joining 17 other states doing the same — recognizing that it would increase voter participation, particularly among young people, and would reduce registration costs.

“This law will increase participation in our democracy,” State Senator Don Harmon said at the time. “But it will do more than that. It will also save the state money. Processing a paper registration costs 83 cents. Processing an online application costs 3 cents.”

With the new law, Illinois also joins “ERIC” — the Electronic Registration Information Center — which helps states share voter information, making voting rolls more accurate and adapting to the mobility of voters.  Eleven other states and Washington, D.C., had already joined the center.

To see more about how ERIC works, watch below.

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