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North Carolina Election Integrity Team Suggestions To Repeal Same Day Registration As An Option for North Carolina Voters





 

1. Background:  Same day registration and voting is practiced by 22 states.  All except North Carolina and Virginia are northern and western states.  The practice is a federally permitted extension of the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA) of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2003, both of which require normal voter registration to be completed 30 days in advance of federal elections.

During the NCGA legislative sessions of 2003-04 and 2005-06, attempts were made to implement same day registration and voting (SDR), with companion bills from House and Senate, both failing to achieve a floor vote in those sessions. 


During the 2007-08 legislative session an SDR bill sponsored by Senator Ross (S195 along with companion bill H91) achieved success in both chambers and was signed into law by the Governor  becoming Session Law 2007-253.  The language in this bill called for codification of a new paragraph G.S. 163-82.6A outlining the provisions for same day registration and voting. 

During the 2013 long session SDR was repealed by House Bill 589 (S.L. 2013-381) along with provisions for a shortened early voting period and new provisions for Voter ID.  These changes triggered a series of federal lawsuits in the Middle District of North Carolina.  Judge Schroeder denied an injunction seeking to restore SDR, but the 4th Circuit later reversed his decision in July 2016.  Since that date, SDR prohibitions have been held hostage, even though state law did not contain codified statutory language permitting the practice.


During the 2023 legislative long session, the NCGA passed an omnibus elections bill in which Section 10.(a) once again addressed same day registration and voting.  The new provision added a paragraph 163-82.6B to the statutes that allows SDR but also requires USPS address verification for all SDR voters prior to their ballots being counted.  The Governor vetoed this bill, but both chambers voted to override the veto and Session Law 2023-140 was enacted.


On 21 January 2024, Federal District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder granted a preliminary injunction (in the case of Voto Latino v Hirsch) preventing enforcement of USPS address verification for SDR voters in that short-notice USPS address verification was likely a violation of the 14th Amendment and an undue burden on voters.  In a subsequent order on 2 April 2024, in a related case (Democracy North Carolina v Hirsch), Judge Schroeder suggested that the NCGA’s SDR provisions could be satisfactorily corrected through legislative action saying, “As a practical matter…there is a viable probability that this claim will become moot if the General Assembly codifies permanent changes to comply with this court’s preliminary injunction order.”


2. Federal Law Citations:  Two federal laws provide relevant guidelines to the states on the subject of Voter Registration:  the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) and the Help America Vote Act of 2003 (HAVA).   Sections 8(a)(1)(A) through 8(a)(1)(D) of the NVRA clearly specify that voter registration is required 30 days prior to the election to participate, unless otherwise specified by the state.   Section 8(b)(1) of the NVRA also requires that state confirmation of voter registration must be performed in a uniform, nondiscriminatory fashion.  Section 303(a)(1)(A) of the HAVA law specifies, “…each state shall implement in a uniform and nondiscriminatory manner, a single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive, computerized statewide voter registration system….”  Neither of these federal laws either requires SDR as a practice or restricts states from verifying addresses for same day registrants.


3. Rationale for Repeal of SDR in North Carolina:  First and foremost, the practice of same day registration and voting is fraught with election security risk.  Printing technology advancements in today’s world make it exceedingly easy to create fraudulent documents that would appear to satisfy HAVA requirements for proof of address.  Once the SDR ballot has been cast, it is virtually impossible to retrieve that ballot before the election has been certified, or to challenge that voter.  Each general election, thousands of ballots are counted in North Carolina despite the registration card being returned non-deliverable for same day registrants.


Next, both NVRA and HAVA laws require that North Carolina administer its voter registration activity, including address confirmation, in a uniform and nondiscriminatory fashion.  Given that Judge Schroeder has denied USPS address verification for same day registrants, a verification that is routinely performed on all other voter list registrants, it should be federally impermissible to allow special allowances to same day registrants that cannot also be afforded to other registrants. 

The SDR practice is cumbersome and difficult to manage for election administrators.  Most county election offices are stretched very thin during the early voting cycle, many of whom are also operating an early voting site co-located at their offices.  Same day registration is just another “glass ball” these administrators have to juggle along with the many other sensitive election-related activities.  They are much too busy to be performing voter registration and address verification tasks while also managing the many other voting processes, all while ensuring election integrity.

Finally, same day registration and voting is a convenience but not an imperative for voting rights.  Twenty-eight states and all U.S. Territories prohibit SDR as a practice.  Prospective voters have protections in place for registering early (if they come of age to vote before the general election) and all have a federal right to vote in each federal election from their previous place of residence should they relocate during the 30-day election window.  All voters have a vote-by-mail option to allow participation even if they have physically relocated.


 4. Recommendation:  North Carolina should join 27 other states in prohibiting the practice of same day registration and voting.  The NCGA should re-address Section 10.(a) of Senate Bill 747 (S.L. 2023-140) to repeal G.S. 163-82.6B in its entirety.  (This is consistent with the logic of Judge Schroeder and helps resolve two extant federal cases.)  The NCGA should also re-write G.S. 163-166.12(f)(1) to define HAVA documents, which were previously defined in G.S. 163-82.6B(e).


5. Point of Contact: 

James K. Womack

President, North Carolina Election Integrity Team

Tel. (919) 770-4783

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