The right to vote is a fundamental freedom. And I know first-hand what it’s like to not have my vote counted.
In 2014, I was forced to cast a provisional ballot despite updating my voter registration at the DMV earlier that year. My ballot was not counted.
This Election Day, there is a chance that thousands of other North Carolinians who show up to their polling place expecting to vote may be turned away or asked to cast a provisional ballot that may never be counted. The problem stems from some state agencies failing to provide and complete voter registrations despite being required to by law.
The National Voter Registration Act, which is commonly referred to as the “motor voter” law, requires states to provide the opportunity for people to register to vote when visiting a driver’s license office or an office providing public assistance services. It’s an effort aimed at making it easier for citizens to participate in our democracy.
Unfortunately, since 2013 North Carolina appears to have failed to comply with the motor voter law. As a result, potentially thousands of residents who completed their voter registration forms at a state agency office were never added to the voter rolls. It’s impossible to know just how many people are impacted, but this Election Day far too many North Carolinians are going to be informed that they are not registered to vote even though they should be.
There is some good news, though. At the end of October, a federal judge recognized that North Carolina has likely failed to comply with this law and issued a preliminary injunction ordering state election officials to count the ballots of those who were erroneously not registered to vote. This means that state officials must count the provisional ballots cast by people who attempted to register at the DMV. If this would have been in effect in 2014, my vote would have counted.
There’s a catch: Voters must tell election officials that they registered to vote at the DMV and were wrongfully left off of the voter rolls. Without making that fact clear to election officials, those provisional ballots may never be counted.
If someone registered to vote or changed their address at the DMV, but aren’t on the rolls, be sure to tell that to election officials at their polling place on Election Day and fill out the paperwork.
All voters should know that there are election protection lawyers ready to make sure your right to vote is respected. Please call 888-OUR-VOTE if you need help of any kind with voting on election day. Don’t give up until you know your vote will count!