North Carolina voters again have two options for casting ballots in the March primary that were repealed for 2014 elections — at least for now. The General Assembly had stopped allowing people to register to vote and cast ballots on the same day during the early-voting period. And they also decided that the votes of people who went to the wrong precinct on election day would no longer be counted. But those changes were put on hold until a trial court judge rules on challenges that have been filed against them. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling confirmed that delay last April, but it’s gotten more attention recently as the primary nears. Same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting were used by more than 100,000 people the last time they were permitted in statewide elections, in November 2012.
The revival of these two options, however, hasn’t been trumpeted by election officials or activists encouraging people to vote. Part of the reason is that the repeals could be enforced again at any time. The federal judge presiding in the case held a trial six months ago but hasn’t yet ruled. He could determine there’s nothing wrong with ending same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting and cancel the injunction blocking the repeals.
“The judge could rule tomorrow,” said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, which works to increase voter participation. The organization has focused efforts on teaching people about new photo identification requirements to vote and on encouraging people to vote early. “We’re not actively promoting the options of same-day (registration) and out-of-precinct (voting) because at this point it’s so up in the air.”