NC says it’s making plans to comply with voter law

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. North Carolina is moving ahead with plans to comply with an appeals court ruling that restores same-day registration and counting out-of-precinct ballots for the fall election, a state attorney told a federal judge Tuesday.

But members of civil rights groups that sued to restore the activities told U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder the State Board of Elections has to do a better job of letting voters know they will be happening.

The board’s website contains inaccurate information, including that “voters who appear at the wrong precinct won’t have their votes counted,” said Allison Riggs, a staff attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

She said that will cause “confusion among voters.”

“These are things that can be easily changed and should be changed by this afternoon,” she said.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Alexander Peters said the state would update the website Wednesday with new information about same-day registration.

The hearing was held days after Schroeder issued a preliminary injunction to comply with a majority decision from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that a provision of a new Republican-backed state elections law that would eliminate same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting would disenfranchise minority voters and should be halted for now. The court ruling was in response to lawsuits from the state NAACP and League of Women Voters, among other groups.

Three lawsuits challenging this and other provisions of the new election law are scheduled for a trial next summer.

The injunction means both same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting have been restored — at least for now.

Attorneys representing the state and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene to allow the state to eliminate same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting for the fall election.

Opponents of the new election law, meanwhile, are urging the high court to block other provisions that would reduce early voting to 10 days and decrease preliminary activities at the polls to prepare voters for a photo identification requirement in 2016.

It’s unclear when the justices will issue a ruling.

Schroeder requested Tuesday’s hearing to see how the state planned to carry out the 4th Circuit’s ruling.

Peters said the state could easily comply with the order to count out-of-district votes. That’s because under the new law – like the old one – those ballots were still going to be tallied anyway. The difference is that under the new law, votes cast in the wrong precinct wouldn’t have counted.

But the other order — handling parts of same-day registration by hand instead of computer — was a little more complicated because boards of elections had disabled a program that took care of that paperwork.

The state was afraid the old program wouldn’t be compatible with upgrades — and that could cause “bugs in parts of the system,” he said.

Riggs disagreed, but added, “our position is it (same-day registration) just needs to happen.”

She said she also had concerns about whether the state was living up to the “spirit of the injunction” because some officials were predicting that same-day registration by hand was going to cause long lines at the polls.

By MITCH WEISS
Associated Press

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/10/07/5225546/judge-wants-nc-to-discuss-voting.html#.VDVKgBZQF6I#storylink=cpy