U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear North Carolina and Maryland Partisan Gerrymandering Challenges

Justices have an opportunity this term to ensure fair maps nationwide by striking down Republican and Democratic redistricting plans

 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear arguments in March 2019 in a challenge to North Carolina’s 2016 congressional map, which is one of the most egregious partisan gerrymanders in American history. It will also hear the Maryland challenge, in which Democrats discriminated against Republicans for their party affiliation in its 2011 maps, in March as well. Together, the cases have the potential to reshape future redistricting nationwide by limiting politicians’ ability to discriminate against voters who favor a minority party when those politicians draw electoral districts.

 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and University of Chicago Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos represent the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and 12 individual North Carolina plaintiffs in the case, League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho.  The Supreme Court will simultaneously hear a companion case, Common Cause v. Rucho, and it will hear the Maryland case, Benisek v. Lamone, this term.

 

“In North Carolina, Republican legislative leaders bragged that they were drawing a plan that advantaged Republicans to the maximum extent possible and discriminated against Democrats.  This kind of outrageous behavior most certainly crosses the line of constitutionality, and if the Supreme Court does not intervene, our democracy will pay the price,” said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the SCSJ.

If the Supreme Court rules that the state’s maps are unconstitutional, this victory could curtail the undemocratic practice of partisan gerrymandering nationwide. Last term, CLC’s Paul Smith argued Gill v. Whitford, a challenge to Wisconsin’s gerrymandered Assembly maps. The Supreme Court sent both the North Carolina and Wisconsin cases back to district court with clear instructions.

 

“Voters nationwide are ready for a ruling from the Supreme Court that finally declares that they come first, not self-interested politicians,” said Paul Smith, vice president at CLC. “A supermajority of Americans – across ideological lines – want the Supreme Court to place limits on partisan gerrymandering. By striking down North Carolina and Maryland’s maps, the Supreme Court can send a message to the rest of the country that extreme partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, no matter which party does it. If the Supreme Court fails to set limits on this undemocratic practice, we will see a festival of copycat gerrymandering in 2020 the likes of which the country has never seen before.”

“Partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina has become so pervasive that the outcome of many elections is decided before a single vote is cast,” said Janet Hoy, co-president of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina. “We have full hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will rein in this undemocratic practice so that voters can have the fair elections they deserve and know that their vote matters.”

“The congressional districts across North Carolina are nothing less than a successful attempt to rig the system,” said Aaron Sarver, a plaintiff from Asheville, North Carolina. “If members of Congress can tell their Republican colleagues in Raleigh exactly which voters they want to ‘represent’ then we’re getting pretty close to telling people it’s not worth bothering to show up to vote because the election was decided the day the maps were drawn.”

With the case now to be decided this term, North Carolina voters could have fair and legal maps drawn in time to be used in the 2020 elections.

Read more about the case: Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina.

###
Anita Earls

Statement Regarding the Investiture of Anita Earls to the North Carolina Supreme Court

RALEIGH, N.C. – Anita Earls was sworn in today as the 100th Justice to sit on the North Carolina Supreme Court in an investiture ceremony this afternoon in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Earls, founding Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, was elected to the seat in November.

Kareem Crayton, Interim Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, issued the following statement upon Anita Earls’ investiture:

“There simply would not be an SCSJ without the vision, energy, and commitment of Anita Earls to build an organization that has become a key force in effort to make the South a more equal, just and inclusive place for its citizens.  Thousands of people across this region are better off today because of the work she has led.  We at SCSJ remain grateful to her for all she has done and will carry on this work as she commences a different chapter in her storied pursuit of justice.  On behalf of SCSJ’s Board, staff and community partners, we heartily congratulate Justice Earls on this remarkable achievement and wish her all the best as she assumes office to work on behalf of all the people of North Carolina.”

Before founding the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Anita Earls served as a deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Justice Department during the Clinton administration, a member of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, and professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and the University of Maryland.

Anita Earls graduated from Williams College and earned her law degree from Yale.

 

 

 

 

 

New North Carolina Voter ID Law Immediately Challenged by Voters

Six voters challenging the state’s new photo ID requirements filed a lawsuit minutes after the regulations became law.  The complaint was filed in Wake County Superior Court along with a motion requesting a preliminary injunction, asking the court to halt the implementation of the law until the case can be heard in court.  State lawmakers overrode Governor Cooper’s veto of S 824, Implementation of Voter ID Constitutional Amendment, on the afternoon of Wednesday, December 19, 2018, as part of a lame-duck legislative session in which several members who lost re-election voted in favor of the override.

The full complaint and the motion for preliminary injunction can be at https://www.southerncoalition.org/voterid/

“The North Carolina Constitution provides numerous and inviolable protections for the fundamental right to vote of all its citizens,” Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.  “Just because the North Carolina Constitution now authorizes, with exceptions, the presentation of a picture ID when voting does not mean those other longstanding protections can be ignored or violated.”

According to the lawsuit, the new law violates multiple provisions of the North Carolina Constitution by:

  • purposefully discriminating against and disproportionately impacting African-American and American-Indian qualified voters, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause in Article 1, § 19;
  • unduly burdening the fundamental right to vote, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause in Article 1, § 19;
  • creating separate classes of voters, treated different with respect to their access to the fundamental right to vote, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause in Article 1, § 19;
  • imposing a cost on voting, in violation of the Free Elections Clause in Article I, § 10;
  • imposing a property requirement for voting, in violation of the Property Qualifications Clause in Article I, § 11; and,
  • impeding voters’ ability to engage in political expression and speech by casting a ballot, in violation of their Right of Assembly and Petition and Freedom of Speech as afforded by Article I, §§ 12 and 14.

“It is the legislature’s duty to balance competing demands in the State Constitution.  It has failed miserably in its exercise of balancing the new ID constitutional amendment, which explicitly allows for exceptions, with the numerous other state constitutional demands that have been interpreted to aggressively protect the right to vote, ” stated Allison Riggs.  “Any legislative scheme that requires voters to present ID when voting must have fail-safe measures to ensure that not one single eligible voter is disenfranchised.  Our State Constitution demands it.  This legislation does not do that.  It simply replicates a scheme that we know disenfranchised approximately 1,400 voters in the March 2016 primaries.”

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is representing plaintiffs in the case, along with pro-bono counsel from the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.  The Southern Coalition for Social Justice also represented plaintiffs who successfully challenged the state’s 2013 monster voter suppression law and was ultimately struck down by the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

House Districts in Wake County Found Unconstitutional

Districts ordered to be redrawn in the next regular legislative session for use in 2020

 

 

RALEIGH – A three-judge state court panel today issued a unanimous ruling declaring four state House Districts in Wake County to be unconstitutional.  The panel agreed that the unnecessary redrawing of state House Districts 36, 37, 40, and 41 violated the North Carolina Constitution’s prohibition on mid-decade redistricting. The order instructs the legislature to remedy the unconstitutional districts in their next regular session for use in the 2020 general election.

 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice represented plaintiffs in NC NAACP v. Lewis.  Plaintiffs included NC NAACP,  League of Women Voters of NC, Democracy NC, A. Philip Randolph Institute of NC, and four individual Wake County voters.

 

The three-judge panels’ order can be found at http://bit.ly/NAACPvLewisOrder

 

Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, issued the following statement after the court’s ruling:

 

“Once again, a court has rebuked the North Carolina General Assembly, finding the legislature’s repeated acts of political gamesmanship in the redistricting process to be unconstitutional. For almost this entire decade, legislative leaders have done everything they can to avoid fair elections and accountability to the voters.  This decision brings us closer to the day that, for the first time this decade, the voice of the voters and not politicians’ illegal manipulations will determine the outcome of elections.”

 

 

###

Video Series Highlights Voters Who Could be Impacted by Voter ID Requirements

 

DURHAM, N.C. – Five videos released today by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice are the first installment of a campaign that’s aimed at educating voters about who may be disenfranchised if a state constitutional amendment requiring photo identification to vote is approved in this November’s election.  The “What’s at Stake” video series highlights the stories of North Carolinians who faced hurdles during the 2016 primary election when photo ID was required.  Some were either turned away for lack of the ID or forced to cast a provisional ballot that was never counted. Others would be unable to vote in future elections if state-issued photo identification is required.

 

The videos showing what’s at stake are available at scsj.org/videos

 

“We know that at well over 1,000 people were denied their right to vote in the 2016 primary because of the photo ID requirement,” said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “Since the legislature has not yet made it known which ID’s they will permit in future elections, voters are being asked to give lawmakers a blank check on determining who would be allowed to vote in future elections and who would be disenfranchised. North Carolinians deserve better than that.”

 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice represented plaintiffs who successfully challenged the voter suppression law passed by the General Assembly in 2013 that included a photo ID requirement.  The organization’s campaign to educate voters about the constitutional amendment on this year’s ballot includes personal stories from:

 

  • Daniel Smith, a Concord resident whose vote was not counted in 2016 because he only had a temporary license when voting in the 2016 primary while he was waiting for his renewed license to be mailed to him;

 

  • Jabari Holmes, a 42-year-old from Wendell who has severe cerebral palsy who has had difficulty obtaining a photo ID and would not be allowed to vote in future elections if photo ID is required;

 

  • Mina Ezikpe, who registered to vote while a student at Duke University and was turned away from the polls without casting a ballot in 2016 for lacking North Carolina issued identification;

 

  • Paul Kearney, a Warrenton resident forced to cast a provisional ballot that was not counted in the 2016 primary for not having his identification with him despite knowing everyone who was working in the polling place that day; and,

 

  • Jaden Peay, an out-of-state sophomore at North Carolina Central University who volunteers to register other students to vote but only has his South Carolina driver’s license and school identification card, making it unlikely that he would be able to vote in future elections.

 

The Southern Coalition will add more stories to the project between now and Election Day.  The videos will be shown at community meetings and town hall discussions about the amendments and will be promoted through sponsored social media posts to inform targeted groups of voters.

 

“Regardless of the rules put in place to implement a photo identification requirement, the result is going to be that some eligible voters are going to be denied their right to participate in our democracy,” added Allison Riggs. “We hope that sharing these stories will help voters see this proposal for what it really is, the newest chapter in a long line of voter suppression efforts.”

 

The videos and individual stories can be found at scsj.org/videos.

Civil Rights Organizations Urge U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session to Withdraw Subpoenas for Massive Amount of Voter Records and Information

DURHAM, N.C. – A coalition of national, regional, and state-based civil rights organizations has sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging the withdrawal of recently issued subpoenas in North Carolina that sought millions of voter records in the state.  The letter makes it clear that the subpoenas:

  • Target people of color, immigrants, and low-income communities in the state in a manner that would intimidate most reasonable people;
  • Should not be used as part of a fishing expedition;
  • Seek voter information that must remain protected according to well-established law; and,
  • Have already interfered with the regular preparation for upcoming elections.

“It’s clear that these subpoenas are a fishing expedition that aims to intimidate voters of color in North Carolina,” stated Kareem Crayton, Interim Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “Americans should have the peace of mind to know that when they cast their ballot, it is not going to examined by government officials in a way that discloses personally identifying information and how they voted.  This effort not only undermines the privacy interests of voters, it also eliminates a crucial element of every free and fair election — the secrecy of the ballot.”

 

Organizations that signed onto the letter include:

  • Southern Coalition for Social Justice
  • Democracy North Carolina
  • North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP
  • North Carolina Justice Center
  • Common Cause North Carolina
  • NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
  • LatinoJustice PRLDEF
  • NALEO Educational Fund
  • Demos
  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

 

Noteworthy excerpts from the letter:

  • “We are deeply concerned that these excessive discovery demands are intended to amplify the incredibly few examples of voting irregularities that actually exist within the voting process and to falsely manufacture a perception that massive voting fraud has occurred in this State. We believe that any such ‘evidence’ is intended to be used as a basis for justifying future voter suppression efforts.” (1)
  • “The extremely broad and unprecedented subpoenas extend far beyond the scope of any legitimate law enforcement objective and threaten voters’ constitutional right to cast a ballot free from fear and intimidation as well as their expectation that their personally identifiable information and their voting preferences will remain private in accordance with the law.” (1)
  • “Indeed, neither an informally negotiated revision of these subpoenas nor formal legal action by the State of North Carolina in fighting the subpoenas would be adequate to address the lasting damage your actions would pose to a free and fair election in this state.” (1)
  • “Given the State’s recent voting rights history and the lived experiences of voters of color, these voters will surely find the fact that the ICE Subpoenas target their region, while offering no explanation for doing so, to be both ominous and intimidating.” (2)
  • “Nothing about the language that an individual speaks or uses to fill out forms creates any reason to believe that a crime has been committed, voting related or otherwise, and any suggestion to the contrary is discriminatory and intimidating.” (2)
  • “The ICE Subpoenas would not only revive the threat of government-sanctioned voter intimidation, but they would ironically destroy what has been an essential protection against election fraud. For these reasons, subpoenaing the voting records of millions of North Carolinians is unreasonable and oppressive, and the demand for cast ballots must be withdrawn in its entirety.” (3)

 

The full text of the letter is available below and can be viewed as a PDF at http://bit.ly/LetterToDOJ

Full text of the letter:

September 26, 2018,

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530-0001

 

Deputy and Acting Director Ron Vitiello

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

500 12th St., SW

Washington, D.C. 20536

Dear Attorney General Sessions and Director Vitiello,

On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we write to strongly request that your agencies immediately cease efforts to subpoena millions of North Carolina voter records in what we believe is an unjustified and likely unlawful fishing expedition. We are deeply concerned that these excessive discovery demands are intended to amplify the incredibly few examples of voting irregularities that actually exist within the voting process and to falsely manufacture a perception that massive voting fraud has occurred in this State. We believe that any such “evidence” is intended to be used as a basis for justifying future voter suppression efforts.

 

In North Carolina recently, representatives of your agencies, only weeks before a major election, issued at least 46 subpoenas seeking millions of state voters’ records. We strongly urge you to immediately withdraw the federal subpoenas which were issued on August 31, 2018, by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sebastian Kielmanovich for the Eastern District of North Carolina and directed to the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, the County Boards of Elections in all 44 counties in the North Carolina’s Eastern District, and the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (hereinafter, “ICE Subpoenas”). The extremely broad and unprecedented subpoenas extend far beyond the scope of any legitimate law enforcement objective and threaten voters’ constitutional right to cast a ballot free from fear and intimidation as well as their expectation that their personally identifiable information (hereinafter, “PII”) and their voting preferences will remain private in accordance with the law. Further, given the massive redactions necessary to avoid complete disregard for voters’ rights and the law, responding to these ICE Subpoenas would interfere with the duties of North Carolina’s election officials at any point in any election cycle. The requested ICE Subpoenas will seriously hinder North Carolina election officials’ ability to provide free and fair elections and follow through with the state’s mandate to enhance election security against foreign interference. The apparent concession by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which extended the deadline for responses to the subpoenas until January, does not resolve the underlying issue with the legality or propriety of the subpoenas.  Indeed, neither an informally negotiated revision of these subpoenas nor formal legal action by the State of North Carolina in fighting the subpoenas would be adequate to address the lasting damage your actions would pose to a free and fair election in this state.

 

The ICE Subpoenas became public knowledge on September 4 after an email was sent to all members of the local boards and redacted subpoena language was posted on Twitter. The subpoenas, which were directed to 44 of North Carolina’s eastern counties, seek “all poll books, e-poll books, voting records, and/or voter authorization documents, executed official ballots that were submitted to, filed by, received by, and/or maintained by” the local board of elections “from August 30, 2013 to August 30, 2018.” The subpoenas directed to the State Board of Elections and NC DMV demand documents including all voter registration, early voting, provisional voting, and absentee ballot request forms over an even longer period—from January 1, 2010 through August 30, 2018. These blanket demands for information on individual voters would have required state election officials to compile more than 15 million voting records, within 60 days before a statewide election. Delaying the compliance deadline for these subpoenas until after the November 2018 election does not ease the burden on North Carolina election officials to redact all of the PII that they would be required to redact under state law, nor does it ensure that the redaction of this data that would not connect the individual voters to their official executed ballots, a problem that would exist with every early voting ballot, absentee ballot, or provisional ballot cast in the state.

 

The Subpoenas Target People of Color, Immigrants and Low Income Communities

 

The Eastern District of North Carolina, the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary system at issue here, is comprised of 44 counties. While the region includes only 39% of North Carolina’s voters, nearly 70% of North Carolina’s Native American voters and 46% of its Black voters live in this district. Additionally, of these 44 counties, the majority experience a poverty rate between 15 and 30%, making it the most concentrated region of low-income communities in the state. The region’s communities of color have experienced a long history of voter intimidation and disenfranchisement, including the ninety-year period during which official voting discrimination and physical violence prevented any person of color from being elected as a part of North Carolina’s congressional delegation. Given the State’s recent voting rights history and the lived experiences of voters of color, these voters will surely find the fact that the ICE Subpoenas target their region, while offering no explanation for doing so, to be both ominous and intimidating.

The subpoena directed toward the North Carolina DMV is even more concerning in this regard.  It specifically seeks information on individuals who filled out forms at the DMV in a language other than English.  Nothing about the language that an individual speaks or uses to fill out forms creates any reason to believe that a crime has been committed, voting related or otherwise, and any suggestion to the contrary is discriminatory and intimidating.

 

The Subpoenas Seek Voter Information that Must Remain Protected

 

The ill-considered ICE Subpoenas seek millions of cast ballots, along with absentee and provisional voter documents that would allow ICE to penetrate the sacrosanct veil of ballot secrecy and reveal many voters’ individual choices in past elections. In a September 6, 2018 letter to the General Counsel of the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Keilmanovich tellingly admitted that the obtaining the records of votes cast was “not relevant to our inquiry.” He nonetheless continued to demand that the documents be produced, with redactions. In other words, the purported compromise position following the initial outrageous demand was for state officials to devote time and resources to making millions of redactions in service to an ICE demand for information that it never had the authority to make and, apparently, never wanted in the first place.  It is the duty of your office and you, as chief law enforcement officer of the Federal Government, to ensure that subordinate agents are not acting beyond the scope of their authority or in a manner that would interfere with the administration of elections and have an intimidating effect on voters.

 

To be clear, ballot secrecy—the right of citizens to cast a secret ballot, without fear of retaliation—came about because of a “persistent battle against two evils: voter intimidation and election fraud.”Burson v. Freeman, 504 U.S. 191, 206 (1992). The ICE Subpoenas would not only revive the threat of government-sanctioned voter intimidation, but they would ironically destroy what has been an essential protection against election fraud. For these reasons, subpoenaing the voting records of millions of North Carolinians is unreasonable and oppressive, and the demand for cast ballots must be withdrawn in its entirety.

 

The Subpoenas Have Already Interfered with Upcoming Elections

 

As stated above, the amount and types of data demanded by the ICE Subpoenas is unprecedented and massive. The Subpoenas demand detailed information about voting records that include millions of cast ballots that would provide sufficient information to allow ICE to identify not only the choices made on each ballot, but the identity of the specific individual who cast it.  This fact alone should chill any member of a democratic society.

 

North Carolina election officials have already explained, in public meeting, that these incredibly sweeping subpoenas have required an overwhelming amount of their time during a period when their heightened attention is normally required to ensure that the upcoming election is conducted smoothly and securely.  Indeed, because of recent state legislative decisions relating to the content and form of the November ballots that have delayed their development and production, elections officials are already working on a significantly truncated calendar as they seek to manage the fast approaching statewide election. These subpoenas are not only unnecessary and unjustified, but they also have already harmed preparations for the upcoming election and voters’ confidence in it.  As a result of these Subpoenas, thousands of North Carolinians have expressed their concern about having their private voting records and PII turned over to the federal government without reason.  They have not only called upon the State Board of Elections to reject these requests, but are also demanding that U.S. Attorney Robert Higdon withdraw the originally issued subpoenas.

 

In the name of public confidence in the legitimacy of your agencies and the U.S. Constitution’s commitment to protect against voter intimidation and election interference, we strongly request that you quickly and fully repudiate the actions of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, taken on behalf of ICE, and  that these unprecedented subpoenas be withdrawn immediately.

 

The U.S. Attorney Should Not Use Grand Jury Proceedings as Fishing Expeditions

 

The aforementioned background and peculiar timing of this action strongly suggest that it is a cynical ploy to seek support for the same specious voter fraud narrative that was used to justify the creation of the defunct Pence-Kobach Commission. To many observers, there seems to be more than a passing similarity between the discredited agenda of the disbanded Commission and the unprecedented and broad interest of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina into the content of state voting records

 

The review of the requested millions of documents in search of perhaps a handful of individual technical violations of voting laws would also undoubtedly entail a massive commitment of federal resources that might otherwise be used to investigate and prosecute crimes that actually pose a threat to the people of North Carolina. Neither your office nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office has made any showing in the public record to justify the scope of these subpoenas, which seek information on millions of voters, nor does it justify the need for an indiscriminate investigation of every vote cast during the designated time period. In the North Carolina State Board of Elections’ Post-2016 Election Audit Report, the board rejected the proposition that participation by ineligible voters was rampant in North Carolina; instead it concluded that in the very few instances where voting irregularities occur, “[m]ost incidents are isolated and uncoordinated, and detecting technical violations does not always prove purposefully unlawful conduct.”  Your agencies have a duty and a responsibility to properly use the power of the federal grand jury system, and to not abuse that power in the process.

 

We the undersigned request that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and ICE immediately instruct their agents to withdraw these subpoenas.

 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Allison Riggs atallisonriggs@southerncoalition.org or 919-323-3909.

 

Sincerely,

 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice

Democracy North Carolina

North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP

North Carolina Justice Center

Common Cause North Carolina

NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

LatinoJustice PRLDEF

NALEO Education Fund

Demos

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

 

Cc: Robert J. Higdon, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the E.D.N.C

 

 

Know Your Voting Rights – Post Hurricane Florence

In the wake of natural disasters, voters frequently get displaced from their homes. That does not mean that these voters lose their right to vote and have their political voices heard. Survivors of Hurricane Florence who have been forced from their homes because of the storm and subsequent flooding have several options available to them to vote this November.

Information about your voting rights is below.  Click here to download a PDF of our Know Your Voting Rights Flier.

1. Voters who have temporarily left their homes and intend to eventually return to the address where they are registered to vote can vote by no-excuse absentee ballot mailed to your temporary address.

  • Any registered voter can request an absentee ballot by submitting an absentee ballot request form in-person or by mail, fax, or email to their county board of elections by 5:00 pm on October 30.
  • The absentee ballot request form can be found here: http://bit.ly/NCAbsentee
  • The completed absentee ballot and return-container envelope, signed by 2 witnesses over age 18 or a notary, must be postmarked or delivered in-person by 5:00 pm on Election Day, November 6.

 

2. Voters who have temporarily left their homes and intend to eventually return to the address where they are registered to vote can also vote during Early Voting or on Election Day in their home county if they have access to transportation and a safe route to the polls.*

  • Voters can vote at any one-stop early voting location in their county from October 17–November 3.
  • Early-voting locations and hours can be found here: http://bit.ly/OneStopVoting
  • Voters can also vote at their assigned “home” precinct on Election Day, November 6, from 6:30 am – 7:30 pm.

 

3. Voters whose homes have been seriously or permanently damaged, are unsure as to whether they will ever be able to return, and intend to remain indefinitely at their current location have the right to register to vote at their new place of residence.

  • Voters can register by submitting a voter registration application in-person or by mail to the county board of elections by October 12. The voter registration application can be found here: http://bit.ly/NCRegistration
  • Voters can also register during the early-voting period using same-day registration by bringing proof of residence, such as a utility bill, bank statement, or government document, to any early voting location.

 

 

 

* Some polling places may have been damaged by the hurricane and may be subject to change. If you are uncertain as to which option best applies in your situation, please don’t hesitate to contact the Southern Coalition for Social Justice at 919-321-1848.

As Urged by SCSJ, North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement Directs AG’s Office to Move to Quash Overbroad ICE Subpoenas

RALEIGH, N.C. – Today, the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement unanimously agreed to direct the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office to take all necessary steps to quash the vague, burdensome and potentially illegal subpoenas that the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern North Carolina served in the last week on the State Board and 44 county boards of elections.

Yesterday, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) submitted to the State Board and its staff an extensive legal memo (http://bit.ly/SubpoenaMemo) providing analysis in support of a move to quash the subpoenas. The State Board also received a supplemental letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney Sebastian Kielmanovich (https://www.scribd.com/document/388011810/Subpoena-Response-US-Attorney#from_embed) offering to retract the original request for cast ballots, which did not fundamentally alter the legal and ethical problems associated with the unprecedented scope of the original subpoenas.

“We commend the State Board for taking steps to defend the privacy interests of North Carolina voters and to prevent likely unlawful fishing expeditions by the federal government that tends to fuel voter suppression and intimidation efforts,” said Allison Riggs, Senior Voting Rights Attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “North Carolina’s voters can participate in this election with confidence that their State Board of Elections will not shrink from their duty to protect the secrecy of their ballots. And we genuinely hope that the Department of Justice and ICE will get the message that we will not allow anyone to declare open season on North Carolina voters.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Subpoenas Local Election Boards for Troves of Information in Apparent Fishing Expedition, Undermining 2018 Election Administration

 

 

RALEIGH, N.C.– Assistant U.S. Attorney Sebastian Kielmanovich recently issued subpoenas to Boards of Elections in all 44 counties in North Carolina’s Federal Eastern District on behalf of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  While the exact timing of the issuance of the subpoenas is not clear, they became public knowledge on September 4 after an email was sent to all members of the local boards and redacted subpoena language was posted to Twitter.

 

The subpoenas seek “all poll books, e-poll books, voting records, and/or voter authorization documents, executed official ballots that were submitted to, filed by, received by, and/or maintained by” the local board of elections “from August 30, 2013 to August 30, 2018.”  See: http://bit.ly/ICEAttachment

 

“The timing and scope of these subpoenas from ICE raise very troubling questions about the necessity and wisdom of federal interference with the pending statewide elections,” said Kareem Crayton, Interim Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.  “With so many well-established threats to our election process from abroad, it is odd to see federal resources directed to this particular concern.  We are closely monitoring the handling of these subpoenas and will keep all legal options on the table to ensure that communities in our state enjoy an election process free from meddling and intimidation.”

 

This is part of a pattern in North Carolina.  On August 17, 2018, the Department of Justice announced federal prosecutions of nineteen individuals in the Eastern District alleged to have voted while ineligible. Both the prosecutions and the new federal subpoenas come after a number of counties in the state decided not to prosecute ineligible voters who voted in the 2016 election.  Most of those instances included voters who were ineligible due to the fact that they were still technically serving an active felony sentence by being on probation or parole, and these voters did not realize they were still ineligible to vote.  Despite most counties declining to prosecute cases because of the lack of nefarious intent on the part of the voters, the State Board of Elections & Ethics enforcement is still referring cases of ineligible voters in the 2016 election to district attorneys for prosecution.

 

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) represented five citizens in Alamance County who were charged with voting while ineligible due to an active felony sentence.  All of those cases resulted in misdemeanor pleas deals that included no admission of guilt and the dismissal of the voting-related charges.  SCSJ is concerned that the efforts in North Carolina to criminalize the ballot box and drum up evidence of “voter fraud” may be replicated on a much larger scale.

 

“This is clearly a fishing expedition that picks up where the Pence-Kobach Commission stopped.  This administration appears to be outsourcing the Commission’s discredited agenda to U.S. Attorneys, thus wasting our local election administrators’ valuable time and resources, many of which had been focused on ensuring our upcoming elections are free from foreign interference,” said Allison Riggs, Senior Voting Rights Attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “It’s ironic, and clearly a political exercise, that an administration that has benefited from foreign election interference is now seeking to burden local election administrators in a way that will impede them in their efforts to safeguard against that same interference in the upcoming election.”

 

###

Plaintiffs Victory in Partisan Gerrymandering Case Shifts Focus Back to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court could hear case in the 2018-19 term in time for new maps in 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina reaffirmed its decision from January striking down the state’s congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.  The decision in League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho was issued after the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the district court to consider whether or not the plaintiffs had standing to bring the case.  In today’s decision, the lower court confirmed that in the consolidated cases, plaintiffs have standing to challenge each of the 13 congressional districts.  It is expected that today’s decision will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could hear the case in the upcoming term that begins in October.

Today’s opinion can be found at http://bit.ly/PartisanGerrymanderingNC

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), Campaign Legal Center (CLC), and University of Chicago Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos represent the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and 12 individual North Carolina plaintiffs.

“Once again, a bipartisan panel of judges agree that the legislature went too far in its efforts to gerrymander election districts in a way that discriminates against voters based on their political beliefs and predetermines the outcome of elections before a single vote is cast,”said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “Elections should have consequences.  Unfortunately, every congressional election in North Carolina so far this decade has deprived the voters of the ability to hold elected officials accountable through the democratic process.  The court recognized that such actions are unconstitutional.  The people of North Carolina deserve better.”

Should the case be heard this term, as expected, North Carolina voters could have fair and legal maps drawn in time to be used in the 2020 elections. The case has the potential to reshape future redistricting nationwide by limiting politicians’ ability to discriminate against voters who favor a minority party as those politicians control the process of drawing electoral districts.

“North Carolina has had one of the most severely gerrymandered maps in modern American history for almost a full decade, and it can no longer stand,” said Ruth Greenwood, senior legal counsel, voting rights and redistricting at CLC. “This fall, North Carolina voters are about to endure their fourth election cycle with a blatantly gerrymandered congressional map. Given the timing, we expect the Supreme Court to hear this case in the upcoming 2018-2019 term. Our clients in North Carolina are ready for a ruling from the Supreme Court that finally declares that voters, not lawmakers, come first.”

A companion case, brought by lead plaintiff Common Cause and others, also moves forward with today’s decision.  The earlier findings by the district court as to the violation of the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights were also reiterated today.

###