RALEIGH, N.C. -- Another federal lawsuit has been filed in North Carolina challenging provisions of a new wide-ranging state elections law that critics contend will discourage young adults from voting through a popular method.
The complaint filed on Tuesday by voter advocacy and civil rights groups marks the third such lawsuit in central North Carolina federal court against portions of a voting bill that became law on Oct. 10. That's the day the Republican-controlled General Assembly overrode Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of the measure.
The lawsuits combined are fighting changes to the process by which someone can both register to vote and cast a ballot during 17 days of early in-person voting, as well as the deadline to turn in completed mail-in absentee votes and the role of partisan poll observers. The three lawsuits are likely to be consolidated and proceed in court as one case, according to a news release from the plaintiffs in Tuesday's lawsuit.
Republicans say the new law, which essentially takes effect with the March primaries, will improve elections and add protections that will build voter confidence in the nation's ninth-largest state. But Cooper and his allies counter the changes are all about helping Republicans retain political power and keeping young, old and rural voters from voting.
Tuesday's litigation, filed by Democracy North Carolina, the North Carolina Black Alliance and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, focuses on same-day registration and how tighter rules will affect citizens age 18 to 25, especially those in college and other transient living spaces. Same-day registration in North Carolina has become increasingly popular among the age group, the lawsuit says, with these young voters composing nearly one-third of those who cast ballots through the process during even-numbered elections since 2016.
For years, the law has said the voter registration of a same-day applicant will be denied if two mailed notices to the registrant's mailing address are returned as undeliverable. The just-enacted legislation would make an applicant ineligible to vote - and their ballot removed from the count - if one such mailed notice is returned as undeliverable. That increases the risk that U.S. Postal Service mishaps will lead to more registration denials, according to the lawsuit.
The previous law said that while the same-day registrant's ballot could be formally challenged, the applicant would still be permitted to vote if the two-step mailing verification wasn't completed by the election. The new restrictions, including the lack of an appeal process, create new barriers to voting that violate the U.S. Constitution and civil rights law, the lawsuit says.
"Lifting these restrictions is crucial to safeguarding the rights of young and student voters across North Carolina and ensuring a functioning and inclusive democracy for all," the lawsuit reads.
Within hours of last week's override, one lawsuit challenging same-day registration changes was filed by the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic Party, with another filed by voting rights groups and individuals.
Election board officials are the chief defendants in the lawsuits. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger filed motions on Monday to formally enter the other two lawsuits, saying that they can't count on Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, to robustly defend the law.
They cite statements by Stein, who is running for governor in 2024, in opposition to the law. On the day of Cooper's veto, a Stein campaign press release referred to the legislation as a "voter suppression" effort and quoted Stein as blaming "far-right politicians in the legislature" for "putting up barriers to the ballot box."
Berger and Moore "have a clear interest in upholding the validity of state statutes designed to regulate election activity and protect election integrity in the state," according to a memorandum filed by the legislative leaders' attorneys.
Republicans nationally have sought voting law changes while former President Donald Trump, who seeks a return to the White House next year, has repeatedly made false claims that the 2020 election was riddled with fraud. North Carolina legislative Republicans have avoided linking election legislation to Trump's grievances.
Editor's Note: Video attached is from a previous story