After dropping its lawsuit challenging same-day voter registrations, the conservative Civitas Institute is again threatening to sue the State Board of Elections over what it says are “ineligible voters” allowed to cast ballots in this year’s election.
As the outcome of the governor’s race remained in doubt last month, Civitas sued to delay counting ballots cast using same-day registration. Its lawsuit addressed the more than 90,000 people who registered to vote and voted on the same day prior to the Nov. 8 general election and argued that there’s not enough time between their registration and ballot counting for the local county boards of election to verify applicants’ addresses.
Civitas dropped the lawsuit a few weeks later, but the group is not giving up on the issue. On Wednesday, it sent letters to the State Board of Elections and six county elections boards arguing that the boards “violated and continue to violate Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act” by keeping “substantial numbers of ineligible voters” on voter rolls.
The letters include a lengthy public records request seeking documents and data related to voters who used same-day registration in this year’s election and the state’s efforts to verify their address. The letters says Civitas could sue if no action is taken.
Civitas says that state elections officials allow ballots to be counted even after two efforts to verify the voter’s address by mail failed. Its letter argues the practice “threatens to taint the integrity of the electoral process.”
Civitas President Francis De Luca said the records request is “what we should have done (instead of a lawsuit) if we knew what we were doing to begin with.”
“This step will get us the information that, if necessary to file a lawsuit again, we’ll have what’s necessary to do it,” he said. “First off, we have to collect the facts and see where they take us.”
A State Board of Elections spokesman said the agency hasn’t yet received the Civitas letter but plans to respond. Before the original lawsuit was dropped, agency attorneys filed a response to the suit’s similar claims about same-day registration.
That document disputes Civitas’ claims that state procedures violate the National Voter Registration Act, and it defends the mail verification process the state uses to confirm a voter’s residency. County election boards send a card to the voter’s home after they register, and the voter’s registration is only in jeopardy if two mailings are returned as undeliverable.
“Mail is not always reliable, and multiple mailings sent to the same address may yield different return rates, though it remains a legitimate tool in North Carolina’s effort to verify registrations,” the agency’s court filing said.
“If the U.S. Postal Service returns the second notice as undeliverable, the county board ‘shall deny the application,’ unless the voter has already voted, in which case the voter will be removed from the rolls if she fails to appear to vote in the subsequent two Congressional elections.”
In addition to the letter sent to the State Board of Elections, Civitas sent similar letters and public records requests to county election boards in Wake, Durham, Watauga, Buncombe, Bladen and Pasquotank.
De Luca says those counties were chosen in an effort to review election practices across the state and mostly don’t relate to specific incidents in the counties.