Federal Judge’s Emergency Ruling Puts End to ‘Insane’ Voter Suppression in North Carolina
Voters line up during early voting at Chavis Community Center in Raleigh, N.C. on Oct. 20, 2016. A federal judge has ordered local elections boards in North Carolina to restore voters to the rolls after they were purged too close to Election Day. (Photo: Gerry Broome / AP)
‘Injunction will help make sure not a single voters’ voice is unlawfully taken away,’ says Rev. William Barber II of the NC NAACP
By Jon Queally / 11.05.2016
Granting hopeful reprieve to thousands of potentially disenfranchised voters ahead of Tuesday’s election, a federal judge late Friday issued an emergency injunction and ordered county elections boards in North Carolina to immediately restore registrations wrongfully purged from voter rolls.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs followed from a lawsuit filed by the North Carolina NAACP which charged that officials in three counties—Beaufort, Moore and Cumberland—had cancelled registrations of thousands of voters solely on the basis of a challenge process triggered by individuals (like this guy) who produced single mailings returned as undeliverable, purporting to show a change in residence. The lawsuit challenged the procedure, arguing the removals were done without written confirmation from the affected voters and in violation of federal voter registration laws, including the National Voter Registration Act (NRVA).
“The Court finds that a narrowly tailored injunction is warranted to ensure that eligible voters are not deprived of their right to participate in the upcoming election due to a flawed process engaged in by the State and County Boards, which this Court has determined likely violates the NVRA,” Biggs said in her decision.
During the hearing of lawsuit on Wednesday, Biggs indicated her sympathy with the plaintiff’s challenge when she called the process by which officials were removing registered voters as “insane.” Such voter disenfranchisement, Biggs said in her Friday ruling, “cannot be sacrificed when citizens through no fault of their own have been removed from the voter rolls.”
Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, welcomed Friday’s ruling.
“This emergency injunction will help make sure not a single voters’ voice is unlawfully taken away,” Barber said in a statement. “The NAACP is defending rights of all North Carolinians to participate in this election and we will not back down and allow this suppression to continue. This is our Selma.”
The NAACP and other voting rights advocates charge that the process was an intentional effort—an example of a troubling national trend—by Republican lawmakers and county officials to suppress voter participation in minority communities and among vulnerable voters such as the poor and elderly.
“The voter purges have a long history of being racially-motivated and terribly inaccurate,” said Penda Hair, an attorney for the NAACP. “It’s a timeworn GOP strategy to suppress the black vote that is being recycled in the run-up to Election Day.”
Voting rights advocates says lawsuit has “significantly lessened the chances of Trump-driven voter intimidation on Election Day”
A federal judge in Ohio on Friday granted a temporary restraining order against the campaign of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, as well as his longtime adviser Roger Stone, to prohibit attempts to harass voters in the crucial swing state.
The case, brought by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), is just one currently being weighed by numerous states alleging that representatives of the Republican Party and the Trump campaign are engaging in illegal voter intimidation efforts.
According to Cleveland.com, U.S. District Judge James Gwin “said he will order the restraining order against Trump’s campaign and Stone,” who runs the controversial “Stop the Steal” organization, which is recruiting so-called “Vote Protector Exit Pollers” for election day. Gwin “did not order it against the Ohio Republican Party, saying there was not enough evidence to show that a restraining order against it was needed.”
Further, Gwin “did not specify exactly what will or will not be allowed but said the order would likely be generic and prohibit both Democrats and Republicans from any harassment of people entering and leaving polling places,” the outlet reported.
Throughout his presidential campaign, the GOP nominee has repeatedly called on his supporters to help ensure “ballot security” on election day.
Attorney Subodh Chandra, who documented Friday’s hearing on Twitter, noted that during the trial Gwin referenced these statements, insinuating that they were inciting aggressive poll-watching.
Judge Gwin to Trump lawyer: what’s the purpose of Trump’s statements if not to stir up voters to intimidate voters? Trump lawyer babbles.
— (((Subodh Chandra))) (@SubodhChandra) November 4, 2016
Stone was reportedly ordered to testify during a similar hearing in Nevada on Friday.
Ahead of the trials, Rick Hasen, professor of law and political science at University of California Irvine and blogger with the Election Law Blog, who has been following the case, said that “the lawsuits have already borne fruit by getting the campaign on the record with its plans and promises not to intimidate voters.”
Hasen wrote at Slate on Friday:
In an important development on Thursday afternoon, the Trump campaign in response to the lawsuits sent an email to Nevada campaign workers describing for them what constitutes illegal harassment and what constitutes good behavior. By getting Trump on the record promising not to harass voters with its “ballot security” activities, the Democrats have significantly lessened the chances of Trump-driven voter intimidation on Election Day.
As Politico‘s Josh Gerstein recently explained, the DNC suit was borne out of the 1982 Consent Decree, which “settl[ed] a case alleging that GOP pollwatchers sought to intimidate minority voters in a practice then known as ‘caging,'” where voters are sent mail before being removed from the voting rolls. As Hasen notes, this practice is “still happening this week in North Carolina.“