The General Assembly’s decision to do away with voter pre-registration in 2013 has created confusion in state driver’s license offices, where 50,000 teenagers a year had been signed up in a program that automatically added their names to voter rolls when they turned 18. Since September, when part of the sweeping elections overhaul bill took effect, state Division of Motor Vehicles officials have had difficulty figuring out at what age newly licensed drivers should be allowed to register to vote. This issue is one of many expected to be raised next week in federal court by lawyers representing the U.S. Justice Department, the NAACP and others challenging the 2013 elections overhaul bill. The parties are scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder on Monday in a Winston-Salem federal courtroom.
Some 17-year-olds are eligible to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 when the general election is held. In years when statewide and national elections are on the first Tuesday in November, figuring out who will be eligible to vote is simpler than in other years.
Counties and municipalities can have general elections in off years that fall on different dates in each location, and DMV officials cannot set one formula in the database for determining which 17-year-olds should get a voter registration application.
For a while, DMV officials tried to figure that out, but they sent the N.C. Board of Elections some voter registration applications for 17-year-olds who would not be eligible to vote in a general election.