State News

Advocacy groups join fray over North Carolina governor votes

Posted November 25

— Voting-rights advocates have joined the legal wrangling over how votes are being counted in North Carolina's close governor's contest.

Lawyers from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice asked a federal judge late Wednesday to reject a lawsuit questioning voters who used same-day registration to cast ballots. The request for a dismissal was by some of the same lawyers and advocates who successfully sued to overturn parts of a wide-ranging 2013 elections law enacted by the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

Now the coalition opposes a lawsuit filed this week by the conservative Civitas Institute, which argues the state cannot finish counting votes until it verifies addresses of voters who used same-day registration. Civitas says same-day registrant's ballots shouldn't be counted if elections officials can't verify their addresses through a mailing process that takes about a month.

A federal judge will consider the lawsuit at a hearing next week.

Democrat Roy Cooper is leading Republican Gov. Pat McCrory by about 7,700 votes, according to unofficial statewide results. Several urban counties are among about 20 that hadn't finished counting votes by Friday morning.

The voting-rights groups note that the federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals restored the same-day registration process in a July ruling, and they say the Civitas Institute's arguments should be rejected under a legal principle against re-litigating the same issue.

State law allows people to register and vote on the same day during the early-voting period if they show proof of residency. Local elections officials then send mailings to verify same-day registrants' addresses.

The voting-rights advocates say the law dictates that such ballots count even if the mail is undeliverable, but the voter's registration would be subject to verification for future elections. Their filing cites several same-day registrants who didn't receive verification mailings because of minor issues in how they were addressed.

"Asking the court to throw away votes of people who used same-day registration is not only undemocratic, it's frivolous," Allison Riggs, a lawyer for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said in a news release. "The 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that North Carolinians should have access to the same-day registration."

The tallying process has been drawn out by legal wrangling and Republican-led complaints in individual counties over mail-in absentee ballots and other issues.

Statewide results were originally scheduled for certification next week, but state officials can delay that process.

The trailing candidate will be eligible for a recount if the margin is 10,000 votes or less after ballots are tallied. McCrory has begun the process of asking for a recount.

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Follow Drew at www.twitter.com/jonldrew

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