Granting hopeful reprieve to thousands of potentially disenfranchised voters ahead of Tuesday's election, a federal judge late Friday issued an emergency injunction and ordered county elections boards in North Carolina to immediately restore registrations wrongfully purged from voter rolls.
"The NAACP is defending rights of all North Carolinians to participate in this election and we will not back down and allow this suppression to continue"
—Rev. William Barber II, NC NAACP
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs followed from a lawsuit filed by the North Carolina NAACP which charged that officials in three counties—Beaufort, Moore and Cumberland—had cancelled registrations of thousands of voters solely on the basis of a challenge process triggered by individuals (like this guy) who produced single mailings returned as undeliverable, purporting to show a change in residence. The lawsuit challenged the procedure, arguing the removals were done without written confirmation from the affected voters and in violation of federal voter registration laws, including the National Voter Registration Act (NRVA).
"The Court finds that a narrowly tailored injunction is warranted to ensure that eligible voters are not deprived of their right to participate in the upcoming election due to a flawed process engaged in by the State and County Boards, which this Court has determined likely violates the NVRA," Biggs said in her decision.
During the hearing of lawsuit on Wednesday, Biggs indicated her sympathy with the plaintiff's challenge when she called the process by which officials were removing registered voters as "insane." Such voter disenfranchisement, Biggs said in her Friday ruling, "cannot be sacrificed when citizens through no fault of their own have been removed from the voter rolls."
Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, welcomed Friday's ruling.
"This emergency injunction will help make sure not a single voters’ voice is unlawfully taken away," Barber said in a statement. "The NAACP is defending rights of all North Carolinians to participate in this election and we will not back down and allow this suppression to continue. This is our Selma."
The NAACP and other voting rights advocates charge that the process was an intentional effort—an example of a troubling national trend—by Republican lawmakers and county officials to suppress voter participation in minority communities and among vulnerable voters such as the poor and elderly.
"The voter purges have a long history of being racially-motivated and terribly inaccurate," said Penda Hair, an attorney for the NAACP. "It’s a timeworn GOP strategy to suppress the black vote that is being recycled in the run-up to Election Day."