NAACP sues N.C. over re­movals in voter rolls

Baltimore Sun - - NATION - By Martha Wag­goner

RALEIGH, N.C. — Lo­cal elec­tion boards in North Carolina are il­le­gally re­mov­ing thou­sands of vot­ers from the rolls, and a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of them are black, the NAACP said in a fed­eral law­suit filed Mon­day.

Vot­ers are be­ing re­moved be­cause of chal­lenges filed by in­di­vid­u­als, which the NAACP says is il­le­gal un­der fed­eral law less than 90 days be­fore an elec­tion. How­ever, state of­fi­cials say it’s le­gal un­der state law.

Early vot­ing al­ready has be­gun in this crit­i­cal swing state, where of­fi­cials and the courts have tus­sled over vot­ing hours and other is­sues of poll ac­cess.

“We will not back down and al­low this sup­pres­sion (against African-Amer­i­cans) to con­tinue,” said the Rev. William Bar­ber, pres­i­dent of the North Carolina chap­ter of the NAACP.

The group’s law­suit ze­roes in on Cum­ber­land, Moore and Beau­fort coun­ties, where thou­sands of vot­ers’ names have been chal­lenged. In most cases, mail sent to an ad­dress is re­turned as un­de­liv­er­able, which county boards can ac­cept as ev­i­dence that the voter no longer lives there.

The law­suit says the state law, and the re­movals, are in vi­o­la­tion of the Na­tional Voter Reg­is­tra­tion Act. It also asks to re­store the names of vot­ers who al­ready have been re­moved. An emer­gency hear­ing was sched­uled for Wed­nes­day in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Win­ston-Salem.

Among those chal­lenged in Beau­fort County was a 100-year-old black woman, Grace Bell Hardi­son, who uses a post of­fice box for mail. She learned about the chal­lenge from a list in the lo­cal news­pa­per, said her nephew, Greg Sat­terth­waite. Her op­tions were to go to a hear­ing — but she only leaves her home once a month — or sign a form, get it no­ta­rized and have some­one at­tend the hear­ing for her.

“Her first re­ac­tion was ‘I can’t vote. I can’t vote,’ ” he said. “She was re­ally up­set.”

Said Hardi­son, who is a plain­tiff in the law­suit: “I’m still go­ing to vote. I al­ways vote.”

The man who filed that and many other chal­lenges in the county, Shane Hu­bers, said he aban­doned it af­ter learn­ing of Hardi­son’s sit­u­a­tion. He said he told county elec­tion of­fi­cials he’ll do the same if peo­ple have an ex­pla­na­tion: “I’m not vin­dic­tive.”

In­di­vid­u­als have chal­lenged 4,500 vot­ers in Beau­fort, Cum­ber­land and Moore coun­ties in Au­gust and Septem­ber — with more than 3,900 of those in Cum­ber­land County, the di­rec­tor of the State Board of Elec­tions, Kim West­brook Strach, said in a let­ter to the NAACP.

How­ever, it’s not clear how many of those peo­ple have had their reg­is­tra­tions struck from the rolls.

Peo­ple can regis­ter to vote and vote on the same day dur­ing early vot­ing, which con­tin­ues through Satur­day. How­ever, if some­one re­moved from the rolls tries to vote on Elec­tion Day, they cast a pro­vi­sional bal­lot that a county board of elec­tions must then de­cide whether to count.


Amer­i­cans cast their bal­lots dur­ing early vot­ing re­cently in Win­ston-Salem, N.C.

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