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Judge extends voter registration in 36 counties following NC Democratic Party lawsuit

A judge Friday afternoon extended the voter registration deadline by five days in 36 counties that are currently dealing with flooding and receiving FEMA assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

The ruling by Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens was made after the North Carolina Democratic Party [1] sued the North Carolina State Board of Elections [2] to extend voter registration by five days.

The State Board announced Stephens’ ruling just after 6 p.m. Residents in the following counties have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to register to vote on Election Day: Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Tyrrell, Washington, Wayne and Wilson.

“Our agency appreciates Judge Stephens’ thoughtful consideration of this matter and will fully comply with his order,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, State Board executive director.

Strach was named as a defendant in the Democratic Party’s lawsuit [3]. The party released the following statement in announcing its litigation Friday:

“Over the last several days, central and eastern North Carolina have suffered the devastating consequences of extreme flooding in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Many people have been displaced, whole communities remain underwater, and today the Neuse River will crest. Thousands of North Carolinians would have registered to vote were it not for this deadly natural disaster. Citizens who rightly listened to warnings and adhered to curfew and evacuation orders now potentially risk disenfranchisement.”

The Board of Elections acknowledged Wednesday [4] that certain counties were still assessing the full impact of the weekend’s hurricane and said it anticipates certain voters will have difficulty accessing county elections offices.

However, the Board did not extend the registration deadline for in-person applicants. Mailed applications were instructed to be processed through next Wednesday regardless of the postmark, as long as the voter’s application is dated by the today’s deadline.

The deadline for residents in North Carolina’s remaining 64 counties was at 5 p.m. today. They can still participate in same-day voter registration during the state’s 17-day early voting period beginning Oct. 20, but that option does not allow them to vote on Election Day.

South Carolina and Florida also have extended voter registration due to Hurricane Matthew.