October 9, 2014 Update:
On October 8, the US Supreme Court handed down the final word about voting for this fall’s elections in North Carolina. It upheld the District Court’s decision not to put any of our new voting laws on hold and overturned the Circuit Court’s decision which would have allowed same-day registration during early voting and out-of-precinct provisional voting on Election Day. So we are back to where we started with the voter suppression provisions of H 589 adopted by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor late in last year’s session.
This fall’s decisions have been just on the procedural question of whether the changes in voting laws would be in effect this fall while the changes themselves are being challenged in court. Those substantive challenges are scheduled to be heard in the middle of 2015. Keep in mind, too, that none of this affects the photo ID question. Voters do not have to show a photo ID in order to vote this year.
On Oct. 1, a three-judge panel of the Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction against two provisions in North Carolina’s new voting laws. The opinion was written by James Wynn, a former member of North Carolina’s two highest courts, who cited the likely effect of the new laws in suppressing the votes of African Americans. (To see Judge Wynn’s full opinion, click here.)
If the injunction stands, it means the following:
- It will be possible to register and vote at the same time during the 10 days of early voting – October 23 through November 1. But, because the Fourth Circuit’s decision is being appealed to the US Supreme Court (see below), the North Carolina Council of Churches is still encouraging people who want to vote to be sure they are properly registered by the October 10 deadline. For more information, go to the State Board of Elections site and click on “Voter Registration” at the top of the page.
- If a voter goes to the wrong precinct on Election Day, he or she will be allowed to vote by provisional ballot rather than being required to travel to the correct precinct. Again, because of the appeal, the NC Council of Churches is still encouraging people to be sure they are registered at their current address and to go to the correct precinct if they are waiting until Election Day to vote. To find out the correct place to vote, go to the State Board of Elections site and look under “Voter Tools” for “Polling Place Lookup.” The Council continues to encourage people to vote during Early Voting especially if they have any uncertainty about the correct place to vote on Election Day. For more information on Early Voting sites in each county, go to the State Board of Elections site and look under “Voter Tools” for “One-Stop Site Lookup”
Keep in mind that all of this is in flux. It is anticipated that the US Supreme Court will consider the State’s appeal quickly, either declining to hear it at all (and thus leaving the injunction on these two points in place) or ruling on it. A ruling could either support the injunction or overturn it. Overturning it would reinstate the full range of voter suppression provisions, including no same-day registering and voting and no Election Day provisional voting for someone who goes to the wrong precinct.
The NC Council of Churches will continue to monitor developments and will post information about the US Supreme Court’s actions and what that means for voting this year.