A federal judge invalidated part of North Carolina elections law that allows one voter to challenge another’s residency, a provision that activist groups used to scrub thousands of names from rolls ahead of the 2016 elections. U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs said in an order signed Wednesday that the residency challenges are pre-empted by the 1993 federal “motor voter” law aimed at expanding voting opportunities. The National Voter Registration Act “encourages the participation of qualified voters in federal elections by mandating certain procedures designed to reduce the risk that a voter’s registration might be erroneously canceled. Defendants’ conduct contravened these procedures,” Biggs wrote.
Biggs had ordered days before the 2016 elections that Cumberland, Moore and Beaufort counties restore thousands of canceled voter registrations. She acted after the NAACP and others sued, alleging the purge of voter rolls disproportionately targeted blacks. Biggs concluded then that the three counties had purged between 3,500 and 4,000 voters from registration rolls since August 2016.
The people who had challenged valid residency of voters filing challenges in Cumberland and Moore counties were volunteers with the Voter Integrity Project. The group’s North Carolina director, Jay Delancy, said it was part of an effort to reduce the potential for voter fraud.