Federal Court Rules Voters May Not Be Purged from Registration Rolls in Violation of National Voter Registration Act

On August 7, 2018, the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina issued a major voting rights decision, ruling that the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”) prohibits the use of North Carolina statutes to (1) remove voters from the registration rolls based on a supposed change of address without following the NVRA’s required process, which involves a statutorily prescribed notice and a waiting period of at least two federal elections, and/or (2) remove voters for any reason within 90 days of a federal election unless based on individualized information.  This ruling will protect North Carolina voters from purges that have occurred in the past, when county boards of elections have improperly used these state processes to remove thousands of voters from the registration rolls based on mass challenges by “voter integrity” groups.

This case arose when the NAACP learned, shortly before the November 2016 election, that thousands of voters had been purged in at least three counties through mass challenges filed by private parties based solely on a single piece of mail sent to the voters that had been returned as undeliverable.  In many cases, the voters had not changed their residence or had simply moved to a different residence within the same county and thus remained eligible to vote.  County boards of elections nonetheless purged challenged voters unless they appeared at a hearing in person or submitted affidavits to defend their eligibility to vote.  In November 2016, within a week of the filing of the case, the court granted a preliminary injunction requiring the State Board of Elections and three North Carolina counties to restore the voter registrations of approximately 4,000 individuals whose registrations had been cancelled in the final weeks and months before the election.

Altshuler Berzon LLP, along with co-counsel, represents the plaintiffs, which include the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the Moore County Branch of the NAACP, and individuals whose eligibility to vote had been challenged.

A copy of the court’s decision is available here.