Return to News Jan 22, 2024

Federal Judge Blocks Key Provision of North Carolina Voter Suppression Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an order issued on Sunday, January 21, a federal judge in North Carolina blocked a key provision of Senate Bill 747 after Elias Law Group attorneys filed a lawsuit challenging the provision on behalf of Voto Latino, the Watauga County Voting Rights Task Force, Down Home North Carolina, and a North Carolina voter.

The lawsuit, filed after Republicans in the North Carolina legislature voted to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of SB 747, was focused on the law’s Undeliverable Mail Provision, which would allow election officials to disenfranchise newly registered voters after just one unsuccessful attempt to verify the voters’ address by mail. The plaintiffs presented extensive evidence that when notices sent to voter registrants are returned as “undeliverable,” it is almost always because of election official or postal service error. And because the new law does not require voters to be notified if their application is rejected on these grounds or to be provided an opportunity to confirm that they are in fact eligible to vote, the new law was poised to disenfranchise lawful, eligible North Carolinians without their knowledge or any chance to save their already voted ballots from rejection.

On Sunday, the Court granted plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction. The injunction prevents the enforcement of the Undeliverable Mail Provision until the state implements a process to notify voters and provide an opportunity to cure if the state is unable to verify the voter’s address.

U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder wrote: “Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood that the undeliverable mail provision in S. 747, will impose a substantial burden on same-day registrants who cast a ballot because, under the law’s express terms, they will face a non-trivial risk of being erroneously disenfranchised by failing address verification due to governmental error, rather than factors related to their eligibility to vote, without any notice and opportunity to be heard.”

The Court further found that: “State Board Defendants and Intervenors, meanwhile, have provided no evidence at this stage that any of the several thousand same-day registrants who have failed address verification since its inception in 2008 was ineligible to vote on the ground of improper residency. In fact, State Board Defendants represented at oral argument that they have ‘no way to know’ if any voter who fails address verification does so because of ineligibility or because of error.”

This is a major victory for Elias Law Group and its clients: “SB 747’s Undeliverable Mail Provision threatened to disenfranchise thousands of eligible North Carolina voters due to errors made by postal and election workers that had nothing to do with voter eligibility. Making matters worse, voters were not entitled to receive notice that their application was being rejected or be given an opportunity to confirm their eligibility. This threat to the voting rights of countless eligible North Carolinians is unacceptable, and we are thankful that the Court granted the preliminary injunction. We are proud to represent Voto Latino, the Watauga County Voting Rights Task Force, Down Home North Carolina, and North Carolina voters in this important case and will continue working to ensure that the Undeliverable Mail Provision does not wrongfully disenfranchise eligible North Carolinians in 2024,” said Elias Law Group partner Aria Branch.

Elias Law Group attorneys Aria Branch, Alexi Velez, Jyoti Jasrasaria, Liam Hancock, Meaghan Mixon, and Samuel Ward-Packard contributed to this case.