A union-affiliated retiree group has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that North Carolina’s voting laws, which require citizens to reside in the state and within a precinct for at least 30 days before an election date to be eligible to vote, are unlawful. The group contends that the residency mandate violates the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act and totally denies newcomers to the state the right to vote. If the lawsuit is successful, it could allow more people to cast ballots in the 2024 elections in North Carolina, which is the ninth-largest state and has over 7 million registered voters.
North Carolina’s Voting Residency Laws Face Federal Lawsuit
A retiree group affiliated with a union has filed a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina laws requiring citizens to reside within the state and a specific precinct for at least 30 days to be eligible to vote. The North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans argued that the 30-day residency mandate violates the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, disadvantaging newcomers by denying them the opportunity to vote.
Should the lawsuit be successful, it could potentially increase voter turnout in future elections. North Carolina – the ninth-largest state with over 7 million registered voters – often experiences tight electoral races. The legal representatives for the retiree alliance, who have previously represented Democratic interests, lodged the lawsuit on Monday against the State Board of Elections and board leaders.
David Fox, a Washington-based lawyer representing the alliance, emphasized in a news release that voters should not be denied their basic right to vote due to relocating between states shortly before an election. He noted that voters are otherwise eligible if they can comply with residency requirements.
Although North Carolina’s constitution lists a one-year state residency requirement for state elections, this provision was deemed unconstitutional decades ago and is not enforced. However, a 30-day precinct requirement remains in effect, with falsifying residency on a registration form classified as a misdemeanor.
The U.S. Voting Rights Act permits states to establish registration deadlines up to 30 days prior to a presidential election. The lawsuit argues that the law stipulates no US citizen should be denied the right to vote solely due to a durational residency requirement. The state constitution allows legislators to relax residency requirements for presidential elections, although no such law exists.
The lawsuit further states that the U.S. Constitution prohibits such requirements for all elections, citing the 1st and 14th Amendments. It highlights the divide between old and new residents, arguing that new arrivals to North Carolina are discriminated against by being denied the opportunity to vote.
The state board hadn’t been served with the lawsuit as of Tuesday. The retiree alliance, with about 52,000 statewide members, has previously sued the elections board to relax in-person and absentee-ballot requirements during the pandemic. The plaintiffs and the board agreed on a settlement that extended the grace period for counting mailed ballots from three days post-Election Day to nine.
The alliance’s lead lawyer in the 2020 lawsuit, Marc Elias, founded a law firm whose attorneys are assisting in representing the alliance in the current lawsuit. The alliance is a state affiliate of the Alliance for Retired Americans, which boasts over 4 million members.