State Board of Elections Issues New Guidance for Same-Day Registration
The North Carolina State Board of Elections has released an updated memorandum outlining the procedures for conducting same-day registration. This comes after the board submitted the memorandum to federal court for review.
Same-Day Registration Option Available
North Carolina allows individuals to register to vote and cast their ballot simultaneously during a 17-day period leading up to a primary or general election. With the state’s primaries scheduled for March 5, the early voting period, which includes same-day registration, will begin on February 15.
Controversial Voting Law Amendment
In October, the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a voting law amendment that required officials to discard the ballot of a same-day registrant if a single mailed notice to their address was returned as undeliverable. Previously, counties were required to send two mailers and disqualify ballots only if both were undeliverable. However, a previous lawsuit ruling discouraged local election boards from challenging such votes until the final count.
Court Ruling Deems Law Unconstitutional
Following the enactment of the 2023 voting law amendment, the Democratic party and voter advocacy groups filed a lawsuit to block it. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder recently ruled that it was likely unconstitutional to discard someone’s ballot without notifying them of the issue and giving them an opportunity to verify their address. Judge Schroeder emphasized the potential for postal service delays and data-entry errors that could mistakenly disenfranchise a voter.
Preliminary Injunction Remains in Place
Judge Schroeder’s preliminary injunction, issued on January 21, will remain in effect until concerns regarding due process are addressed. It is unclear at this time whether the updated rules provided by the State Board of Elections will satisfy the judge.
Impact on Voter Registration
During the last two presidential general elections, over 100,000 new registrants utilized same-day registration in North Carolina. In the November 2020 election, approximately 2,150 same-day registration applicants failed the address verification process. Even slight adjustments in the same-day registration rules could potentially affect the upcoming elections for president, governor, and other statewide positions, which have historically been highly contested.
New Guidelines for Handling Same-Day Registration
The updated guidance, issued by Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell on Monday, outlines how counties should handle same-day registration. If an address verification card is returned as undeliverable no later than two days before a county’s final ballot count, election workers must first verify if the addresses on the card and registration applications match. If not, applicants should be contacted through mail, email, and phone to provide an opportunity for them to submit a new identification document or to make an appeal in person to the county elections board on the day of the final count.