DURHAM (Oct. 17, 2023) — Senate Bill 747 (SB 747) is an unconstitutional burden on the fundamental right to vote for young North Carolinians, according to a new lawsuit filed in federal court by Southern Coalition for Social Justice on behalf of several pro-democracy and civil rights groups.
The Plaintiffs — Democracy North Carolina, North Carolina Black Alliance, and League of Women Voters of North Carolina — say SB 747 impedes the right of young people to register to vote and have their ballot counted when using same-day registration, a form of voting disproportionately used by this growing population within North Carolina’s electorate.
SB 747 places the fate of a ballot cast using same-day registration on whether a single piece of mail reaches that voter. If that piece of mail goes undelivered — by accident, negligence, or otherwise — the voter’s ballot is thrown out and their registration is canceled, with no notice provided and no opportunity to be heard. The North Carolina General Assembly enacted SB 747 despite well-documented difficulties for young voters, including college students, to have their mail delivered reliably.
SB 747, an omnibus election law that offered only “a solution in search of problems,” passed into law on Tuesday, October 10, after both chambers of the NCGA overrode Governor Cooper’s veto. This bill continues a disturbing trend seen across the South where legislators cite the repeatedly disproved claims of fraud and impropriety around the 2020 election to justify further restrictions on the right to vote. North Carolina voters are paying a severe cost through these changes, which operate at every turn to make voting harder, less certain, and less accessible. Today’s filing challenges some of the most onerous provisions of SB 747.
“None of the generic state interests offered to support SB 747… justifies the extreme and specifically targeted burdens and barriers that SB 747 intentionally imposes on these voters,” the filing states. “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.”
This legislation continues North Carolina’s history of making voting more restrictive and exclusive, at the expense of not only young voters, but voters of colors, elderly voters, and low-income voters. Lifting these restrictions is crucial to continue working toward a representative, multi-racial democracy in North Carolina.
“Whether your vote gets counted should not be a random game of chance,” said Jeff Loperfido, Chief Counsel for Voting Rights at Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “But that’s precisely what this new same-day registration scheme does, by taking control out of the hands of the voter and leaving the fate of their ballot to the whims of election officials and the U.S. Postal Service. The people of North Carolina deserve better.”
“There is indeed a long and troubling history in North Carolina of lawmakers making blatant attempts to restrict voting access for young voters. Yet those leading such efforts forget what has always followed — a series of champions challenging such suppression across the political spectrum,” said Cheryl Carter, co-Executive Director, Democracy NC. “Make no mistake: the right to vote should not be a partisan issue. We are proud to join this fight with our fellow plaintiffs in support of young voters who already face enough barriers as it is, whether through lack of Early Voting sites, photo ID requirements, or absentee ballot rejections. These are our state and nation’s newest voters. If certain lawmakers won’t protect their constitutional right to free and easy access to the ballot box, we will.”
“Unfortunately, we have witnessed a consistent effort from our state’s leadership to create countless barriers for our voters, more specifically naming one of our most vulnerable populations, young adult voters,” said Jovita Lee, Program Director for North Carolina Black Alliance. “We have a duty to ensure that our young voters, especially those who attend our Historically Black Colleges and Universities that have been historically impacted by legislation such as this, can equitably access the ballot box and fully participate in our democratic process, per their given right.”
“Same-day registration is critical to ensure access to the ballot, especially for North Carolina’s younger voters,” said Jennifer Rubin, president of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina. “SB 747 is a direct assault on the voters who use same-day registration the most, and the League is committed to dismantling any such barriers to the ballot.”
“Young voters have the right and the desire to participate fully in our democracy,” said Celina Stewart, chief counsel and senior director of advocacy and litigation at the League of Women Voters of the US. “Laws like SB747 throttle young voters’ opportunities, threatening their fundamental right to make their voices heard.”
Several other lawsuits against SB 747 were filed after the General Assembly overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. It’s likely these cases will be consolidated and proceed in tandem over the coming months.
Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
The North Carolina Black Alliance is working toward state-level systemic change by strengthening the network of elected officials representing communities of color throughout the state and collaborating with progressive, grassroots networks on intersecting issues. These issues range from voting rights, gerrymandering, criminal justice reform, health and wellness, economic development to education. Learn more at ncblackalliance.org.
Democracy North Carolina is a statewide nonpartisan organization that strengthens democratic structures, builds power among disenfranchised communities, and inspires confidence in a transformed political process that works for all. Learn more at www.democracync.org.
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, grassroots nonprofit dedicated to empowering everyone to fully participate in our democracy. With active Leagues in all 50 states and more than 750 Leagues across the country, we engage in advocacy, education, litigation, and organizing to protect every American’s freedom to vote. Learn more at lwv.org.