Protecting Voter Rights

Just in time for Election Day, a federal court has ordered North Carolina elections officials to honor the registrations of voters who were improperly left off the voter rolls after attempting to register through state motor vehicle offices. Morrison & Foerster represents the disenfranchised North Carolinians, together with several civil rights groups.

The court, in a ruling dated October 27, 2016, directed the North Carolina State Board of Elections to inform every county election board that it must count the provisional ballots that will be cast by persons who attempted to register in person at a DMV location but do not appear on lists of registered voters. The case was brought to enforce the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which is popularly known as the motor voter law.

The court also denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss the case, which will proceed on broader issues in the coming months.

“This is an important victory for our clients and the citizens of North Carolina,” said Morrison & Foerster’s Matthew D’Amore, a New York partner who, with Steven Kaufmann from our Washington, D.C. office, leads the MoFo team on the case. “For years, North Carolina state agencies have been failing to offer opportunities to register to vote as federal law requires, leaving citizens out of the political process. Our clients brought this action to help bring North Carolina into compliance with the law, and the Court has now found that we are likely to succeed in proving our case.”

Our clients in the case, Action NC v. Strach, No. 1:15-cv-1063 in the Middle District of North Carolina, are the voting rights groups Action NC, Democracy North Carolina, and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. We filed suit in December 2015 based on evidence showing that many North Carolina citizens who attempt to register to vote through DMV are not actually added to the voter rolls. The suit also alleges that the state Department of Health and Social Services, or DHHS, is failing to give low-income North Carolinians the voter registration services required by federal law.

Our co-counsel are Project Vote, Demos, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.