Thursday, November 03, 2016

Judge: North Carolina Voter Challenge Process Seems 'Insane'

If Republicans thought they could win fairly, they wouldn't use dirty tricks.

By martha waggoner and jonathan drew, associated press
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Nov 2, 2016

North Carolina's process for challenging voters' registration seems to harken to a bygone era when fewer safeguards were in place, a federal judge said Wednesday as she presided over a lawsuit that alleges voters are being purged unfairly.

Lawyers for North Carolina countered that state data shows only a sliver of names have been removed from county rolls in the past two years — fewer than 7,000 statewide out of 6.8 million registered voters.

The comments came during an emergency hearing over NAACP allegations that at least three counties purged voter rolls through a process disproportionately targeting blacks

Early voting is already underway in the critical swing state that the NAACP has previously sued over other voter access issues. So far, North Carolina's black voter turnout has lagged the 2012 presidential election.

The NAACP says counties are violating federal law by removing voters less than 90 days before the election. However, state officials say the process complements federal law and preserves due-process rights.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs said the process sounds "insane."

"This sounds like something that was put together in 1901," she told lawyers for the state.

Biggs also said she was "horrified" by the number of removals in Cumberland County, which accounted for most of the statewide total.

"It almost looks like a cattle call, the way people are being purged," she told county attorney Rick Moorefield.

He replied that board members didn't like the process, "but they felt compelled to follow the statute."

The hearing ended without a ruling, but Biggs acknowledged time was dwindling before next week's election.


The U.S. Justice Department said in a court filing that if the NAACP allegations are true, they represent violations of the National Voter Registration Act.

The Justice Department writes that counties can't remove voters "using only mail returned as undeliverable and without following specific required procedures," nor can they carry out "systematic removals within 90 days of a Federal election."

The NAACP lawsuit comes during a protracted battle over voter access in the state. In July, a federal court struck down much of a 2013 elections law, saying the GOP-controlled General Assembly had disproportionately targeted black voters. The ruling lengthened in-person early voting by a week and eliminated a photo ID requirement for in-person voting.

That ruling sparked disagreements among local Democratic and Republican election officials about the number of sites and hours for early voting.

Through Tuesday, blacks' early voting participation in North Carolina lagged behind the same point in the 2012 election by 13 percent, said Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer. Black voters regained some ground after more voting sites opened last week, but he said it's unclear if they can close the gap before early voting ends Saturday.


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